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Reminiscences  of  WILLIAM  JAMES  and 
JOSIAH  ROYCE  and  Academic  Life  in 


THE  LIFE   OF  REASON.     Five  Vols. 








LONDON      •      BOMBAY       -     SYDNEY 

First  published  192 


MANY  of  these  Soliloquies  have  appeared  in  The  Athenaeum, 
and  one  or  more  in  The  London  Mercury,  The  Nation,  The 
New  Republic,  The  Dial,  and  The  Journal  of  Philosophy. 
The  author's  thanks  are  due  to  the  Editors  of  all  these 
reviews  for  permission  to  reprint  the  articles. 

For  convenience,  three  Soliloquies  on  Liberty,  written 
in  1915,  have  been  placed  in  the  second  group  ;  and  perhaps 
it  should  be  added  that  not  a  few  of  the  later  pieces  were 
written  in  France,  Spain,  or  Italy,  although  still  for  the 
most  part  on  English  themes  and  under  the  influence  of 
English  impressions. 




PROLOGUE  ...  i 

SOLILOQUIES   IN   ENGLAND,    1914-1918 

1.  ATMOSPHERE            .            .  .  .  .n 

2.  GRISAILLE    .            .            .  /  .  .13 

3.  PRAISES  OF  WATER              .  .  .  .15 

4.  THE  Two  PARENTS  OF  VISION  .  .  .17 


6.  CLOUD  CASTLES       .            .  .  .  .19 

7.  CROSS-LIGHTS           .            .  .  .  -23 

8.  HAMLET'S  QUESTION            .  .  .  .27 

9.  THE  BRITISH  CHARACTER   .  .  .  .29 

10.  SEAFARING   .             .             .  .  .  .32 

11.  PRIVACY        .            .             .  .  .  -35 

12.  THE  LION  AND  THE  UNICORN  .  .  .39 

13.  DONS            .            .            .  .  .  -43 

14.  APOLOGY  FOR  SNOBS           .  .  .  -45 

15.  THE  HIGHER  SNOBBERY      .  .  .  .49 


17.  FRIENDSHIPS             .             .  .  .  -55 

1 8.  DICKENS       .....  eg 

19.  THE  HUMAN  SCALE             .  .  .  .73 

20.  ENGLISH  ARCHITECTURE      .  .  .  -77 

21.  THE  ENGLISH  CHURCH       .  .  .  -83 

22.  LEAVING  CHURCH    .            .  .  .88 

23.  DEATH-BED  MANNERS          .  .  .  .90 




24.  WAR  SHRINES          .            .            .  .  .92 

25.  TIPPERARY  .             .             .  /  -99 

26.  SKYLARKS     .            .            .             .  .  .107 

27.  AT  HEAVEN'S  GATE             .             .  .  .     113 

LATER  SOLILOQUIES,    1918-1921 

28.  SOCIETY  AND  SOLITUDE       .         .  v  .  119 

29.  IMAGINATION            .             .            .  »  .122 

30.  THE  WORLD'S  A  STAGE       .            .  .  .126 

31.  MASKS          .            .            .            .  .  .     128 

32.  THE  TRAGIC  MASK.            ..  '         .  .  .131 

33.  THE  COMIC  MASK   .            ,            .  .  .135 

34.  CARNIVAL     .             .            .             .  .  .139 

35.  QUEEN  MAB             ....  .     144 


37.  THE  CENSOR  AND  THE  POET          .  .  .     155 

38.  THE  MASK  OF  THE  PHILOSOPHER  .  ,  *  .160 


40.  CLASSIC  LIBERTY     .            .             .  .  .     165 

41.  GERMAN  FREEDOM  .             .             .  .  .     169 

42.  LIBERALISM  AND  CULTURE              .  -  .  .     173 

43.  THE  IRONY  OF  LIBERALISM             .  .  .     178 

44.  JOHN  BULL  AND  HIS  PHILOSOPHERS  .  .     190 

45.  OCCAM'S  RAZOR        .            .             .  .  .194 

46.  EMPIRICISM.            .             .            ,  .  ,     198 

47.  THE  BRITISH  HEGELIANS    .            .  ,  .201 

48.  THE  PROGRESS  OF  PHILOSOPHY      .  '.  ;  .     207 

49.  THE  PSYCHE             .            .             .  .  >     217 

50.  REVERSION  TO  PLATONISM  .            .  .  ;.„     224 

51.  IDEAS            ....  .     228 

52.  THE  MANSIONS  OF  HELEN  .            .  .  .     236 

53.  THE  JUDGEMENT  OF  PARIS             •„  .  .241 

54.  ON  MY  FRIENDLY  CRITICS  .            „  .  .     245 

55.  HERMES  THE  INTERPRETER             .  .  .259 


THE  outbreak  of  war  in  the  year  1914  found  me  by  chance 
in  England,  and  there  I  remained,  chiefly  at  Oxford,  until 
the  day  of  the  peace.  During  those  five  years,  in  rambles 
to  Iffley  and  Sandford,  to  Godstow  and  Wytham,  to  the 
hospitable  eminence  of  Chilswell,  to  Wood  Eaton  or 
Nuneham  or  Abingdon  or  Stanton  Harcourt, 

Crossing  the  stripling  Thames  at  Bab-lock-hithe, 

these  Soliloquies  were  composed,  or  the  notes  scribbled 
from  which  they  have  been  expanded.  Often  over  Port 
Meadow  the  whirr  of  aeroplanes  sent  an  iron  tremor  through 
these  reveries,  and  the  daily  casualty  list,  the  constant  sight 
of  the  wounded,  the  cadets  strangely  replacing  the  under 
graduates,  made  the  foreground  to  these  distances.  Yet 
nature  and  solitude  continued  to  envelop  me  in  their 
gentleness,  and  seemed  to  remain  nearer  to  me  than  all 
that  was  so  near.  They  muffled  the  importunity  of  the 
hour ;  perhaps  its  very  bitterness  and  incubus  of  horror 
drove  my  thoughts  deeper  than  they  would  otherwise 
have  ventured  into  the  maze  of  reflection  and  of  dreams. 
It  is  a  single  maze,  though  we  traverse  it  in  opposite  moods, 
and  distinct  threads  conduct  us  ;  for  when  the  most  dire 
events  have  assumed  their  punctiform  places  in  the  history 
of  our  lives,  where  they  will  stand  eternally,  what  are 
they  but  absurd  episodes  in  a  once  tormenting  dream  ? 
And  when  our  despised  night-dreams  are  regarded  and 
respected  as  they  deserve  to  be  (since  all  their  troubles  are 
actual  and  all  their  tints  evident),  do  they  prove  more 
arbitrary  or  less  significant  than  our  waking  thoughts,  or 
than  those  more  studious  daylight  fictions  which  we  call 
history  or  philosophy  ?  The  human  mind  at  best  is  a  sort 

I  B 


of  song ;  the  music  of  it  runs  away  with  the  words,  and 
even  the  words,  which  pass  for  the  names  of  things,  are  but 
poor  wild  symbols  for  their  unfathomed  objects.  So  are 
these  Soliloquies  compared  with  their  occasions  ;  and  I 
should  be  the  first  to  hate  their  verbiage,  if  a  certain 
spiritual  happiness  did  not  seem  to  breathe  through  it, 
and  redeem  its  irrelevance.  Their  very  abstraction  from 
the  time  in  which  they  were  written  may  commend  them 
to  a  free  mind.  Spirit  refuses  to  be  caught  in  a  vice  ;  it 
triumphs  over  the  existence  which  begets  it.  The  moving 
I  world  which  feeds  it  is  not  its  adequate  theme.  Spirit 
hates  its  father  and  its  mother.  It  spreads  from  its  burn 
ing  focus  into  the  infinite,  careless  whether  that  focus  burns 
to  ashes  or  not.  From  its  pinnacle  of  earthly  time  it 
pours  its  little  life  into  spheres  not  temporal  nor  earthly, 
and  half  in  playfulness,  half  in  sacrifice,  it  finds  its  joy  in 
the  irony  of  eternal  things,  which  know  nothing  of  it. 

Spirit,  however,  cannot  fly  from  matter  without 
material  wings  ;  the  most  abstract  art  is  compacted  of 
images,  the  most  mystical  renunciation  obeys  some  passion 
of  the  heart.  Images  and  passion,  even  if  they  are  not 
easily  recognizable  in  these  Soliloquies  as  now  coldly 
written  down,  were  not  absent  from  them  when  inwardly 
spoken.  The  images  were  English  images,  the  passion 
was  the  love  of  England  and,  behind  England,  of  Greece. 
What  I  love  in  Greece  and  in  England  is  contentment  in 
finitude,  fair  outward  ways,  manly  perfection  and  simplicity. 
Admiration  for  England,  of  a  certain  sort,  was  instilled 
into  me  in  my  youth.  My  father  (who  read  the  language 
with  ease  although  he  did  not  speak  it)  had  a  profound 
respect  for  British  polity  and  British  power.  In  this 
admiration  there  was  no  touch  of  sentiment  nor  even  of 
sympathy ;  behind  it  lay  something  like  an  ulterior  con 
tempt,  such  as  we  feel  for  the  strong  man  exhibiting  at  i 
fair.  The  performance  may  be  astonishing  but  the  achieve 
ment  is  mean.  So  in  the  middle  of  the  nineteenth  century 
an  intelligent  foreigner,  the  native  of  a  country  materially 
impoverished,  could  look  to  England  for  a  model  of  that 
irresistible  energy  and  public  discipline  which  afterwards 
were  even  more  conspicuous  in  Bismarckian  Germany  and 
in  the  United  States.  It  was  admiration  for  material 


progress,  for  wealth,  for  the  inimitable  gift  of  success  ; 
and  it  was  not  free,  perhaps,  from  the  poor  man's  illusion, 
who  jealously  sets  his  heart  on  prosperity,  and  lets  it  blind 
him  to  the  subtler  sources  of  greatness.  We  should  none 
of  us  admire  England  to-day,  if  we  had  to  admire  it  only 
for  its  conquering  commerce,  its  pompous  noblemen,  or  its  , 
parliamentary  government.  I  feel  no  great  reverence  jj 
even  for  the  British  Navy,  which  may  be  in  the  junk-shop  j  | 
to-morrow  ;  but  I  heartily  like  the  British  sailor,  with  his  ' 
clear-cut  and  dogged  way  of  facing  the  world.  It  is 
health,  not  policy  nor  wilfulness,  that  gives  true  strength 
in  the  moral  world,  as  in  the  animal  kingdom  ;  nature  and 
fortune  in  the  end  are  on  the  side  of  health.  There  is,  or 
was,  a  beautifully  healthy  England  hidden  from  most 
foreigners  ;  the  England  of  the  countryside  and  of  the 
poets,  domestic,  sporting,  gallant,  boyish,  of  a  sure  and 
delicate  heart,  which  it  has  been  mine  to  feel  beating, 
though  not  so  early  in  my  life  as  I  could  have  wished.  In 
childhood  I  saw  only  Cardiff  on  a  Sunday,  and  the  docks 
of  Liverpool ;  but  books  and  prints  soon  opened  to  me 
more  important  vistas.  I  read  the  poets  ;  and  although 
British  painting,  when  it  tries  to  idealize  human  subjects, 
has  always  made  me  laugh,  I  was  quick  to  discern  an 
ethereal  beauty  in  the  landscapes  of  Turner.  Furgueson's 
Cathedrals  of  England,  too,  and  the  great  mansions  in  the 
Italian  style  depicted  in  the  eighth  edition  of  the  Encyclo 
paedia  Britannica,  revealed  to  me  even  when  a  boy  the 
rare  charm  that  can  envelop  the  most  conventional  things 
when  they  are  associated  with  tender  thoughts  or  with 
noble  ways  of  living. 

It  was  with  a  premonition  of  things  noble  and  tender, 
and  yet  conventional,  that  after  a  term  at  the  University 
of  Berlin  I  went  to  spend  my  first  holidays  in  England. 
Those  were  the  great  free  days  of  my  youth.  I  had  lived 
familiarly  in  Spain  and  in  the  United  States  :  I  had  had 
a  glimpse  of  France  and  of  Germany,  and  French  literature 
had  been  my  daily  bread  :  it  had  taught  me  how  to  think, 
but  had  not  given  me  much  to  think  about.  I  was  not 
mistaken  in  surmising  that  in  England  I  should  find  a 
tertium  quid,  something  soberer  and  juster  than  anything 
I  yet  knew,  and  at  the  same  time  greener  and  richer. 


I  felt  at  once  that  here  was  a  distinctive  society,  a  way  of 
living  fundamentally  foreign  to  me,  but  deeply  attractive. 
At  first  all  gates  seemed  shut  and  bristling  with  incom- 
munication  ;  but  soon  in  some  embowered  corner  I  found 
the  stile  I  might  climb  over,  and  the  ancient  right  of  way. 
Those  peaceful  parks,  and  those  minds  no  less  retired, 
seemed  positively  to  welcome  me  ;  and  though  I  was  still 
divided  from  them  by  inevitable  partitions,  these  were  in 
places  so  thin  and  yielding,  that  the  separation  seemed 
hardly  greater  than  is  requisite  for  union  and  sympathy 
between  autonomous  minds.  Indeed,  I  was  soon  satisfied 
that  no  climate,  no  manners,  no  comrades  on  earth  (where 
nothing  is  perfect)  could  be  more  congenial  to  my  com 
plexion.  Not  that  I  ever  had  the  least  desire  or  tendency 
-to  become  an  Englishman.  Nationality  and  religion  are 
like  our  love  and  loyalty  towards  women  :  things  too 
radically  intertwined  with  our  moral  essence  to  be  changed 
honourably,  and  too  accidental  to  the  free  mind  to  be 
worth  changing.  My  own  origins  were  living  within  me ; 
by  their  light  I  could  see  clearly  that  this  England  was 
pre-eminently  the  home  of  decent  happiness  and  a  quiet 
pleasure  in  being  oneself.  I  found  here  the  same  sort  of 
manliness  which  I  had  learned  to  love  in  America,  yet 
softer,  and  not  at  all  obstreperous  ;  a  manliness  which 
when  refined  a  little  creates  the  gentleman,  since  its 
instinct  is  to  hide  its  strength  for  an  adequate  occasion 
and  for  the  service  of  others.  It  is  self-reliant,  but  with 
a  saving  touch  of  practicality  and  humour ;  for  there  is  a 
becoming  self-confidence,  based  on  actual  performance, 
like  the  confidence  of  the  athlete,  and  free  from  any 
exorbitant  estimate  of  what  that  performance  is  worth. 
Such  modesty  in  strength  is  entirely  absent  from  the 
effusive  temperament  of  the  Latin,  who  is  cocky  and 
punctilious  so  long  as  his  conceit  holds  out,  and  then 
utterly  humbled  and  easily  corrupted  ;  entirely  absent 
also  from  the  doctrinaire  of  the  German  school,  in  his 
dense  vanity  and  officiousness,  that  nothing  can  put  to 
shame.  So  much  had  I  come  to  count  on  this  sort  of 
manliness  in  the  friends  of  my  youth,  that  without  it  the 
most  admirable  and  gifted  persons  seemed  to  me  hardly 
men  :  they  fell  rather  into  an  ambiguous  retinue,  the 


camp  followers  of  man,  cleverer  but  meaner  than  himself— 
the  priests,  politicians,  actors,  pedagogues,  and  shop 
keepers.  The  man  is  he  who  lives  and  relies  directly  on 
nature,  not  on  the  needs  or  weaknesses  of  other  people. 
These  self-sufficing  Englishmen,  in  their  reserve  and 
decision,  seemed  to  me  truly  men,  creatures  of  fixed 
rational  habit,  people  in  whose  somewhat  inarticulate 
society  one  might  feel  safe  and  at  home.  The  low  pressure 
at  which  their  minds  seemed  to  work  showed  how  little 
they  were  alarmed  about  anything  :  things  would  all  be 
managed  somehow.  They  were  good  company  even  when 
they  said  nothing.  Their  aspect,  their  habits,  their 
invincible  likes  and  dislikes  seemed  like  an  anchor  to  me 
in  the  currents  of  this  turbid  age.  They  were  a  gift  of  the 
gods,  like  the  sunshine  or  the  fresh  air  or  the  memory  of 
the  Greeks  :  they  were  superior  beings,  and  yet  more 
animal  than  the  rest  of  us,  calmer,  with  a  different  scale 
ot  consciousness  and  a  slower  pace  of  thought.  There  were 
glints  in  them  sometimes  of  a  mystical  oddity  ;  they  loved 
the  wilds  ;  and  yet  ordinarily  they  were  wonderfully  sane 
and  human,  and  responsive  to  the  right  touch.  Moreover, 
these  semi-divine  animals  could  talk  like  men  of  the  world. 
If  some  of  them,  and  not  the  least  charming,  said  little 
but  "Oh,  really,"  and  "  How  stupid  of  me,"  I  soon 
discovered  how  far  others  could  carry  scholarly  distinction, 
rich  humour,  and  refinement  of  diction.  I  confess,  however, 
that  when  they  were  very  exquisite  or  subtle  they  seemed 
to  me  like  cut  flowers  ;  the  finer  they  were  the  frailer,  and 
the  cleverer  the  more  wrong-headed.  Delicacy  did  not 
come  to  them,  as  to  Latin  minds,  as  an  added  ornament, 
a  finer  means  of  being  passionate,  a  trill  in  a  song  that 
flows  full-chested  from  the  whole  man  ;  their  purity  was 
Puritanism,  it  came  by  exclusion  of  what  they  thought 
lower.  It  impoverished  their  sympathies,  it  severed  them 
from  their  national  roots,  it  turned  to  affectation  or 
fanaticism,  it  rendered  them  acrid  and  fussy  and  eccentric 
and  sad.  It  is  truly  English,  in  one  sense,  to  fume  against 
England,  individuality  tearing  its  own  nest  ;  and  often 
these  frantic  poses  neutralize  one  another  and  do  no  harm 
on  the  whole.  Nevertheless  it  is  the  full-bodied  Englishman 
who  has  so  far  ballasted  the  ship,  he  who,  like  Shakespeare, 


can  wear  gracefully  the  fashion  of  the  hour,  can  play 
with  fancy,  and  remain  a  man.  When  he  ceases  to  be 
sensual  and  national,  adventurous  and  steady,  reticent  and 
religious,  the  Englishman  is  a  mad  ghost ;  and  wherever 
he  prevails  he  turns  pleasant  England,  like  Greece,  into  a 

Those  first  holidays  of  mine,  when  I  was  twenty-three 
years  of  age,  laid  the  foundation  of  a  life-long  attachment — 
of  which  these  Soliloquies  are  a  late  fruit — to  both  Oxford 
and  Cambridge  :  not  so  much  to  the  learned  society  of 
those  places  as  to  their  picturesque  aspects  and  to  the 
possibility  of  enjoying  there  in  seclusion  the  intense  com 
panionship  of  the  past  and  of  the  beautiful ;  also  the 
intense  companionship  of  youth,  to  which  more  advanced 
years  in  themselves  are  no  obstacle,  if  the  soul  remains 
free.  I  have  never  liked  the  taste  of  academic  straw  ;  but 
there  are  fat  grains  and  seeds  of  novelty  even  at  universities, 
which  the  lively  young  wits  that  twitter  in  those  shades 
pick  up  like  hungry  sparrows,  yet  without  unmitigated 
seriousness  ;  and  unmitigated  seriousness  is  always  out  of 
place  in  human  affairs.  Let  not  the  unwary  reader  think 
me  flippant  for  saying  so  ;  it  was  Plato,  in  his  solemn  old 
age,  who  said  it.  He  added  that  our  ignominious  condition 
forces  us,  nevertheless,  to  be  often  terribly  in  earnest. 
Wanton  and  transitory  as  our  existence  is,  and  comic  as 
it  must  appear  in  the  eyes  of  the  happy  gods,  it  is  all  in 
all  to  our  mortal  nature  ;  and  whilst  intellectually  we  may 
judge  ourselves  somewhat  as  the  gods  might  judge  us,  and 
may  commend  our  lives  to  the  keeping  of  eternity,  our 
poor  animal  souls  are  caught  inextricably  in  the  toils  of 
time,  which  devours  us  and  all  our  possessions.  The  artist 
playing  a  farce  for  others  suffers  a  tragedy  in  himself. 
When  he  aspires  to  shed  as  much  as  possible  the  delusions 
of  earthly  passion,  and  to  look  at  things  joyfully  and 
unselfishly,  with  the  clear  eyes  of  youth,  it  is  not  because 
he  feels  no  weight  of  affliction,  but  precisely  because  he 
feels  its  weight  to  the  full,  and  how  final  it  is.  Lest  it 
should  seem  inhuman  of  me  to  have  been  piping  soliloquies 
whilst  Rome  was  burning,  I  will  transcribe  here  some 
desperate  verses  extorted  from  me  by  events  during  those 
same  years.  I  am  hardly  a  poet  in  the  magic  sense  of  the 


word,  but  when  one's  thoughts  have  taken  instinctively  a 
metrical  form,  why  should  they  be  forbidden  to  wear  it  ? 
I  do  not  ask  the  reader  to  admire  these  sonnets,  but  to 
believe  them. 


Cambridge,  October  1913 

Grey  walls,  broad  fields,  fresh  voices,  rippling  weir, 
I  know  you  well  7  ten  faces,  for  each  face 
That  passes  smiling,  haunt  this  hallowed  place, 
And  nothing  not  thrice  noted  greets  me  here. 
Soft  watery  winds,  wide  twilight  skies  and  clear, 
Refresh  my  spirit  at  its  founts  of  grace, 
And  a  strange  sorrow  masters  me,  to  pace 
These  willowed  paths,  in  this  autumnal  year. 
Soon,  lovely  England,  soon  thy  secular  dreams, 
Thy  lisping  comrades,  shall  be  thine  no  more. 
A  world's  loosed  troubles  flood  thy  gated  streams 
And  drown,  methinks,  thy  towers  ;  and  the  tears  start 
As  if  an  iron  hand  had  clutched  my  heart, 
And  knowledge  is  a  pang,  like  love  of  yore. 


Oxford,  1915 

Sweet  as  the  lawn  beneath  his  sandalled  tread, 
Or  the  scarce  rippled  stream  beneath  his  oar, 
So  gently  buffeted  it  laughed  the  more, 
His  life  was,  and  the  few  blithe  words  he  said. 
One  or  two  poets  read  he,  and  reread  ; 
One  or  two  friends  with  boyish  ardour  wore 
Close  to  his  heart,  incurious  of  the  lore 
Dodonian  woods  might  murmur  overhead. 
Ah,  demons  of  the  whirlwind,  have  a  care, 
What,  trumpeting  your  triumphs,  ye  undo  ! 
The  earth  once  won,  begins  your  long  despair 
That  never,  never  is  his  bliss  for  you. 
He  breathed  betimes  this  clement  island  air 
And  in  unwitting  lordship  saw  the  blue. 


Oxford,  1917 

Smother  thy  flickering  light,  the  vigil's  o'er. 
Hope,  early  wounded,  of  his  wounds  is  dead. 
Many  a  night  long  he  smiled,  his  drooping  head 
Laid  on  thy  breast,  and  that  brave  smile  he  wore 
Not  yet  from  his  unbreathing  lips  is  fled. 
Enough  :   on  mortal  sweetness  look  no  more, 
Pent  in  this  charnel-house,  fling  wide  the  door 
And  on  the  stars  that  killed  him  gaze  instead. 
The  world's  too  vast  for  hope.     The  unteachable  sun 
Rises  again  and  will  reflood  his  sphere, 
Blotting  with  light  what  yesterday  was  done  ; 
But  the  unavailing  truth,  though  dead,  lives  on, 
And  in  eternal  night,  unkindly  clear, 
A  cold  moon  gilds  the  waves  of  Acheron. 



THE  stars  lie  above  all  countries  alike,  but  the  atmosphere 
that  intervenes  is  denser  in  one  place  than  in  another  ; 
and  even  where  it  is  purest,  if  once  its  atoms  catch  the 
sunlight,  it  cuts  off  the  prospect  beyond.  In  some  climates 
the  veil  of  earthly  weather  is  so  thick  and  blotted  that 
even  the  plodder  with  his  eyes  on  the  ground  finds  its 
density  inconvenient,  and  misses  his  way  home.  The 
advantage  of  having  eyes  is  neutralized  at  such  moments, 
and  it  would  be  better  to  have  retained  the  power  of  going 
on  all  fours  and  being  guided  by  scent.  In  fact  human 
beings  everywhere  are  like  marine  animals  and  live  in  a 
congenial  watery  medium,  which  like  themselves  is  an 
emanation  of  mother  earth  ;  and  they  are  content  for  the 
most  part  to  glide  through  it  horizontally  at  their  native 
level.  They  ignore  the  third,  the  vertical  dimension  ;  or 
if  they  ever  get  some  inkling  of  empty  heights  or  rigid 
depths  where  they  could  not  breathe,  they  dismiss  that 
speculative  thought  with  a  shudder,  and  continue  to  dart 
about  in  their  familiar  aquarium,  immersed  in  an  opaque 
fluid  that  cools  their  passions,  protects  their  intellect 
from  mental  dispersion,  keeps  them  from  idle  gazing,  and 
screens  them  from  impertinent  observation  by  those  who 
have  no  business  in  the  premises. 

The  stellar  universe  that  silently  surrounds  them,  if 
while  swimming  they  ever  think  of  it,  seems  to  them 
something  foreign  and  not  quite  credibly  reported.  How 
should  anything  exist  so  unlike  home,  so  out  of  scale  with 
their  affairs,  so  little  watery,  and  so  little  human  ?  Their 
philosophers  confirm  them  in  that  incredulity ;  and  the 
sea-caves  hold  conclaves  of  profound  thinkers  congregated 



to  prove  that  only  fog  can  be  real.  The  dry,  their  council 
decrees,  is  but  a  vain  abstraction,  a  mere  negative  which 
human  imagination  opposes  to  the  moist,  of  which  alone, 
since  life  is  moist,  there  can  be  positive  experience. 

As  for  the  stars,  these  inspired  children  of  the  mist  have 
discovered  that  they  are  nothing  but  postulates  of  astro 
nomy,  imagined  for  a  moment  to  exist,  in  order  that  a 
beautiful  human  science  may  be  constructed  about  them. 
Duller  people,  born  in  the  same  fog,  may  not  understand 
so  transcendental  a  philosophy,  but  they  spontaneously 
frame  others  of  their  own,  not  unlike  it  in  principle.  In 
the  middle  of  the  night,  when  the  starlight  best  manages 
to  pierce  to  the  lowest  strata  of  the  air,  these  good  people 
are  asleep ;  yet  occasionally  when  they  are  returning 
somewhat  disappointed  from  a  party,  or  when  illness  or 
anxiety  or  love-hunger  keeps  them  pacing  their  chamber 
or  tossing  in  their  beds,  by  chance  they  may  catch  a 
glimpse  of  a  star  or  two  twinkling  between  their  curtains. 
Idle  objects,  they  say  to  themselves,  like  dots  upon  the 
wall-paper.  Why  should  there  be  stars  at  all,  and  why 
so  many  of  them  ?  Certainly  they  shed  a  little  light  and 
are  pretty ;  and  they  are  a  convenience  sometimes  in  the 
country  when  there  is  no  moon  and  no  lamp-posts ;  and 
they  are  said  to  be  useful  in  navigation  and  to  enable  the 
astronomers  to  calculate  sidereal  time  in  addition  to  solar 
time,  which  is  doubtless  a  great  satisfaction  to  them. 
But  all  this  hardly  seems  to  justify  such  an  expense  of 
matter  and  energy  as  is  involved  in  celestial  mechanics. 
To  have  so  much  going  on  so  far  away,  and  for  such  pro 
digious  lengths  of  time,  seems  rather  futile  and  terrible. 
Who  knows  ?  Astrologers  used  to  foretell  people's  char 
acter  and  destiny  by  their  horoscope  ;  perhaps  they  may 
turn  out  to  have  been  more  or  less  right  after  all,  now  that 
science  is  coming  round  to  support  more  and  more  what 
our  fathers  called  superstitions.  There  may  be  some 
meaning  in  the  stars,  a  sort  of  code-language  such  as 
Bacon  put  into  Shakespeare's  sonnets,  which  would  prove 
to  us,  if  we  could  only  read  it,  not  how  insignificant,  but 
how  very  important  we  are  in  the  world,  since  the  very 
stars  are  talking  about  us. 

The  safest  thing,  however,  is  to  agree  with  the  great 


idealists,  who  say  there  are  really  no  stars  at  all.  Or,  if 
their  philosophy  seems  insecure — and  there  are  rumours 
that  even  the  professors  are  hedging  on  the  subject — we 
can  always  take  refuge  in  faith,  and  think  of  the  heavenly 
bodies  as  beautiful  new  homes  in  which  we  are  to  meet 
and  work  together  again  when  we  die  ;  and  as  in  time  we 
might  grow  weary  even  there,  with  being  every  day  busier 
and  busier,  there  must  always  be  other  stars  at  hand  for 
us  to  move  to,  each  happier  and  busier  than  the  last  ; 
and  since  we  wish  to  live  and  to  progress  for  ever,  the 
number  of  habitable  planets  provided  for  us  has  to  be 
infinite.  Certainly  faith  is  far  better  than  science  for 
explaining  everything. 

So  the  embryonic  soul  reasons  in  her  shell  of  vapour ; 
her  huddled  philosophy  is,  as  it  were,  pre-natal,  and  dis 
credits  the  possibility  of  ever  peeping  into  a  cold  outer 
world.  Yet  in  time  this  shell  may  grow  dangerously  thin 
in  places,  and  a  little  vague  light  may  filter  through. 
Strange  promptings  and  premonitions  at  the  same 'time 
may  visit  the  imprisoned  spirit,  as  if  it  might  not  be  im 
possible  nor  inglorious  to  venture  into  a  world  that  was 
not  oneself.  At  last,  willy-nilly,  the  soul  may  be  actually 
hatched,  and  may  suddenly  find  herself  horribly  exposed, 
cast  perhaps  on  the  Arabian  desert,  or  on  some  high, 
scorched,  open  place  that  resembles  it,  like  the  uplands  of 
Castile.  There  the  rarefied  atmosphere  lets  the  stars  down 
upon  her  overwhelmingly,  like  a  veritable  host  of  heaven. 
There  the  barren  earth  entwines  few  tentacles  about  the 
heart ;  it  stretches  away  dark  and  empty  beneath  our 
feet,  a  mere  footstool  for  meditation.  It  is  a  thing  to  look 
away  from,  too  indifferent  and  accidental  even  to  spurn  ; 
for  after  all  it  supports  us,  and  though  small  and  extin 
guished  it  is  one  of  the  stars.  In  these  regions  the  shepherds 
first  thought  of  God. 


ENGLAND   is   pre-eminently   a  land   of   atmosphere.     A 
luminous  haze  permeates  everywhere,  softening  distances, 


magnifying  perspectives,  transfiguring  familiar  objects, 
harmonizing  the  accidental,  making  beautiful  things 
magical  and  ugly  things  picturesque.  Road  and  pavement 
become  wet  mirrors,  in  which  the  fragments  of  this  gross 
world  are  shattered,  inverted,  and  transmuted  into  jewels, 
more  appealing  than  precious  stones  to  the  poet,  because 
they  are  insubstantial  and  must  be  loved  without  being 
possessed.  Mists  prolong  the  most  sentimental  and  sooth 
ing  of  hours,  the  twilight,  through  the  long  summer 
evenings  and  the  whole  winter's  day.  In  these  country 
sides  so  full  of  habitations  and  these  towns  so  full  of 
verdure,  lamplight  and  twilight  cross  their  rays  ;  and  the 
passers-by,  mercifully  wrapped  alike  in  one  crepuscular 
mantle,  are  reduced  to  unison  and  simplicity,  as  if  sketched 
at  one  stroke  by  the  hand  of  a  master. 

English  landscape,  if  we  think  only  of  the  land  and 
the  works  of  man  upon  it,  is  seldom  on  the  grand  scale. 
Charming,  clement,  and  eminently  habitable,  it  is  almost 
too  domestic,  as  if  only  home  passions  and  caged  souls 
could  live  there.  But  lift  the  eyes  for  a  moment  above 
the  line  of  roofs  or  of  tree-tops,  and  there  the  grandeur 
you  miss  on  the  earth  is  spread  gloriously  before  you. 
The  spirit  of  the  atmosphere  is  not  compelled,  like  the  god 
of  pantheism,  to  descend  in  order  to  exist,  and  wholly  to 
diffuse  itself  amongst  earthly  objects.  It  exists  absolutely 
in  its  own  person  as  well,  and  enjoys  in  the  sky,  like  a  true 
deity,  its  separate  life  and  being.  There  the  veil  of  Maya, 
the  heavenly  Penelope,  is  being  woven  and  rent  perpetually, 
and  the  winds  of  destiny  are  always  charmingly  defeating 
their  apparent  intentions.  Here  is  the  playground  of 
those  early  nebulous  gods  that  had  the  bodies  of  giants 
and  the  minds  of  children. 

In  England  the  classic  spectacle  of  thunderbolts  and 
rainbows  appears  but  seldom ;  such  contrasts  are  too 
violent  and  definite  for  these  tender  skies.  Here  the 
conflict  between  light  and  darkness,  like  all  other  conflicts, 
ends  in  a  compromise  ;  cataclysms  are  rare,  but  revolution 
is  perpetual.  Everything  lingers  on  and  is  modified  ;  all 
is  luminous  and  all  is  grey. 



THE  transformation  of  landscape  by  moisture  is  no  matter 
of  appearance  only,  no  mere  optical  illusion  or  effect  of 
liquid  stained  glass.  It  is  a  sort  of  echo  or  symbol  to 
our  senses  of  very  serious  events  in  prehistoric  times. 
Water,  which  now  seems  only  to  lap  the  earth  or  to  cloud 
it,  was  the  chisel  which  originally  carved  its  surface. 
They  say  that  when  the  planet,  recently  thrown  off  from 
the  sun,  was  still  on  fire,  the  lighter  elements  rose  in  the 
form  of  gases  around  the  molten  metallic  core ;  and  the 
outer  parts  of  this  nucleus  in  cooling  formed  a  crust  of 
igneous  rock  which,  as  the  earth  contracted,  was  crushed 
together  and  wrinkled  like  the  skin  of  a  raisin.  These 
wrinkles  are  our  mountain  chains,  made  even  more  rugged 
and  villainous  by  belated  eruptions.  On  that  early  earth 
there  was  no  water.  All  was  sheer  peaks,  ledges,  and 
chasms,  red-hot  or  coal-black,  or  of  such  livid  metallic 
hues,  crimson,  saffron,  and  purple,  as  may  still  be  seen 
on  the  shores  of  the  Dead  Sea  or  in  the  Grand  Canyon  of 
the  Colorado — rifts  that  allow  us  to  peep  into  the  infernal 
regions,  happily  in  those  places  at  least  without  inhabitants. 
This  hellish  sort  of  landscape,  which  we  must  now  plunge 
into  the  depths  to  find,  was  the  first  general  landscape  of 

As  the  cooling  progressed,  however,  the  steam  that 
was  in  the  upper  atmosphere  began  to  condense  and 
to  fall  in  rain.  At  first  the  hot  drops  no  doubt  sizzled  as 
they  fell  and  rose  again  immediately  in  vapour,  yet  the 
meteorological  cycle  was  established  notwithstanding. 
The  rain  that  evaporated  descended  once  more,  each 
time  colder  and  more  abundant,  until  it  cut  channels 
amongst  the  crags,  ground  and  polished  their  fragments 
into  boulders  and  pebbles,  formed  pools  in  the  hollows, 
and  finally  covered  the  earth  up  to  its  chin  with  the 
oceans.  Much  detritus  meantime  was  washed  down  from 
the  rocks  ;  it  gathered  in  crevices  and  along  the  pockets 
and  slacker  reaches  of  rivers.  This  sediment  was  soaked 


with  moisture  and  mixed  with  dissolved  acids  ,  it  became 
the  first  soft  layer  of  earth  and  finally  a  fertile  soil.  Water 
in  this  way  softened  the  outlines  of  the  mountains,  laid  the 
floor  of  the  valleys,  and  made  a  leafy  and  a  cloudy  place  of 
the  planet. 

The  sages  (and  some  of  them  much  more  recent  than 
Thales)  tell  us  that  water  not  only  wears  away  the  rocks, 
but  has  a  singular  power  of  carrying  away  their  subtler 
elements  in  solution,  especially  carbonic  acid,  of  which  the 
atmosphere  also  is  full  ;  and  it  happens  that  these  elements 
can  combine  with  the  volatile  elements  of  water  into 
innumerable  highly  complex  substances,  all  of  which  the 
atmospheric  cycle  carries  with  it  wherever  it  goes  ;  and  with 
these  complex  substances,  which  are  the  requisite  materials 
for  living  bodies,  it  everywhere  fills  the  sea  and  impregnates 
the  land. 

Even  if  life,  then,  is  not  actually  born  of  the  moist 
element,  it  is  at  least  suckled  by  it ;  the  water-laden 
atmosphere  is  the  wet  nurse,  if  not  the  mother,  of  the 
earth-soul.  The  earth  has  its  soul  outside  its  body,  as 
many  a  philosopher  would  have  wished  to  have  his.  The 
winds  that  play  about  it  are  its  breath,  the  water  that 
rains  down  and  rises  again  in  mist  is  its  circulating  blood  ; 
and  the  death  of  the  earth  will  come  when  some  day  it 
sucks  in  the  atmosphere  and  the  sea,  gets  its  soul  inside 
its  body  again,  turns  its  animating  gases  back  into  solids, 
and  becomes  altogether  a  skeleton  of  stone. 

No  wonder  that  living  creatures  find  things  that  are 
fluid  and  immersed  in  moisture  friendly  to  the  watery  core 
of  their  own  being.  Seeds,  blood,  and  tears  are  liquid  ; 
nothing  else  is  so  poignant  as  what  passes  and  flows,  like 
music  and  love  ;  and  if  this  irreparable  fluidity  is  sad, 
anything  stark  and  arrested  is  still  sadder.  Life  is  com 
pelled  to  flow,  and  things  must  either  flow  with  it  or,  like 
Lot's  wife,  in  the  petrified  gesture  of  refusal,  remain  to 
mock  their  own  hope. 



IT  would  seem  that  when  a  heavenly  body  ceases  to  shine 
by  its  own  light,  it  becomes  capable  of  breeding  eyes  with 
which  to  profit  by  the  light  other  bodies  are  shedding  ; 
whereas,  so  long  as  it  was  itself  on  fire,  no  part  of  it  could 
see.  Is  life  a  gift  which  cooling  stars  receive  from  those 
still  incandescent,  when  some  ray  falls  upon  a  moist  spot, 
making  it  a  focus  of  warmth  and  luminous  energy,  and 
reversing  at  that  point  the  general  refrigeration  ?  It  is 
certain,  at  any  rate,  that  if  light  did  not  pour  down  from 
the  sun  no  earthly  animal  would  have  developed  an  eye. 
Yet  there  was  another  partner  in  this  business  of  seeing, 
who  would  have  flatly  refused  to  undertake  it,  had  the  sole 
profit  been  the  possibility  of  star-gazing. 

Star-gazing  is  an  ulterior  platonic  homage  which  we  pay 
to  our  celestial  sources,  as  a  sort  of  pious  acknowledgment 
of  their  munificence  in  unconsciously  begetting  us.  But 
this  is  an  acknowledgment  which  they  are  far  from  demand 
ing  or  noticing,  not  being  vain  or  anxious  to  be  admired, 
like  popular  gods  ;  and  if  we  omitted  it,  they  would  continue 
to  perform  their  offices  towards  us  with  the  same  contemptu 
ous  regularity.  Star-gazing  is,  therefore,  a  pure  waste  of 
time  in  the  estimation  of  the  other  partner  in  vision,  besides 
celestial  light — I  mean,  that  clod  of  moist  earth  which  the 
light  quickens,  that  plastic  home-keeping  parent  of  the 
mind,  whom  we  might  call  old  mother  Psyche,  and  whose 
primary  care  is  to  keep  the  body  in  order  and  guide  it 
prudently  over  the  earth's  surface.  For  such  a  purpose 
the  direct  rays  of  the  sun  are  blinding,  and  those  of  the 
moon  and  stars  fit  only  to  breed  lunatics.  To  mother 
Psyche  it  seems  a  blessing  that  the  view  of  the  infinite  from 
the  earth  is  so  often  intercepted ;  else  it  might  have  sunk 
into  her  heart  (for  she  has  watched  through  many  a  night 
in  her  long  vegetative  career),  and  might  have  stretched 
her  comfortable  industrious  sanity  into  a  sort  of  divine 
madness  or  reason,  very  disconcerting  in  her  business. 
Indeed,  she  would  never  have  consented  to  look  or  to  see 
at  all,  except  for  this  circumstance,  that  the  rays  coming 



from  heavenly  bodies  are  reflected  by  earthly  bodies  upon 
one  another  ;  so  that  by  becoming  sensitive  to  light  the 
Psyche  could  receive  a  most  useful  warning  of  what  to 
seek  or  to  avoid.  Instead  of  merely  stretching  or  poking 
or  sniffing  through  the  world,  she  could  now  map  it  at  a 
glance,  and  turn  instinct  into  foresight. 

This  was  a  great  turn  in  her  career,  wonderful  in  its 
tragic  possibilities,  and  something  like  falling  in  love ;  for 
her  new  art  brought  her  a  new  pleasure  and  a  new  unrest, 
purer  and  more  continual  than  those  drowsy  and  terrible 
ones  which  she  knew  before.  Reflected  light  is  beautiful. 
The  direct  downpour  of  light  through  space  leaves  space 
wonderfully  dark,  and  it  falls  on  the  earth  indiscriminately 
upon  the  wise  and  the  foolish,  to  warm  or  to  scorch  them  ; 
but  the  few  rays  caught  by  solid  matter  or  drifting  vapour 
become  prismatic,  soft,  and  infinitely  varied ;  not  only 
reporting  truly  the  position  and  material  diversity  of  things, 
but  adding  to  them  an  orchestration  in  design  and  colour 
bewitching  to  the  senses.  It  was  not  the  stars  but  the 
terrestrial  atmosphere  that  the  eyes  of  the  flesh  were  made 
to  see ;  even  mother  Psyche  can  love  the  light,  when  it 
clothes  or  betrays  something  else  that  matters  ;  and  the 
fleshly-spiritual  Goethe  said  most  truly :  Am  farbigen 
A  bglanz  haben  wir  das  Leben. 


REPETITION  is  the  only  form  of  permanence  that  nature 
can  achieve,  and  in  those  Mediterranean  regions  that 
nurtured  the  classic  mind,  by  continually  repeating  the 
same  definite  scenes,  nature  forced  it  to  fix  its  ideas. 
Every  one  learned  to  think  that  the  earth  and  the  gods 
were  more  permanent  than  himself  ;  he  perused  them,  he 
returned  to  them,  he  studied  them  at  arm's  length,  and 
he  recognized  their  external  divinity.  But  where  the 
Atlantic  mists  envelop  everything,  though  we  must 
repeatedly  use  the  same  names  for  new-born  things,  as 
we  continue  to  christen  children  John  and  Mary,  yet  we 
feel  that  the  facts,  like  the  persons,  are  never  really  alike  ; 


everything  is  so  fused,  merged,  and  continuous,  that  what 
ever  element  we  may  choose  to  say  is  repeated  seems  but 
a  mental  abstraction  and  a  creature  of  language.  The 
weather  has  got  into  our  bones  ;  there  is  a  fog  in  the 
brain  ;  the  limits  of  our  own  being  become  uncertain  to  us. 
Yet  what  is  the  harm,  if  only  we  move  and  change  inwardly 
in  harmony  with  the  ambient  flux  ?  Why  this  mania  for 
naming  and  measuring  and  mastering  what  is  carrying  us 
so  merrily  along  ?  Why  shouldn't  the  intellect  be  vague 
while  the  heart  is  comfortable  ? 


THE  heavens  are  the  most  constant  thing  we  know,  the 
skies  the  most  inconstant.  Even  the  Olympian  expanse, 
when  blue  and  cloudless,  is  an  aspect  of  terrestrial  atmo 
sphere  in  a  holiday  mood,  a  sort  of  gay  parasol  which  the 
Earth  holds  up  when  she  walks  in  the  sun,  and  takes  down 
again  when  she  walks  in  the  shadow  ;  while  clouds  are  veils 
wrapped  more  closely  about  her,  and  even  more  friendly 
to  her  frailty.  Nor  are  these  feminine  trappings  less  lovely 
for  being  easily  blown  about,  and  always  fresh  and  in  the 
latest  fashion.  It  is  a  prejudice  to  suppose  that  instability 
must  be  sad  or  must  be  trivial.  A  new  cloud  castle  is 
probably  well  worth  an  old  one ;  any  one  of  them  may 
equal  in  beauty  the  monotonous  gold  and  black  vault 
which  it  conceals  from  us,  and  all  of  them  together  certainly 
surpass  that  tragic  decoration  in  spiritual  suggestion. 
Something  in  us  no  doubt  regrets  that  these  airy  visions 
vanish  so  quickly  and  are  irrecoverable ;  but  this  is  a  sort 
of  fleshly  sentimentality  of  ours  and  not  reasonable.  In 
nature,  what  disappears  never  narrows  the  range  of  what 
is  yet  to  be.  If  we  were  immortally  young,  like  the  atmo 
sphere,  the  lapse  of  things  would  not  grieve  us,  nor  would 
inconstancy  be  a  vice  in  ourselves.  Nobody's  future  would 
be  blighted  by  his  past ;  and  this  perhaps  explains  the 
morals  of  the  gods.  Change  to  us  is  an  omen  of  death,  and  N 
only  in  the  timeless  can  we  feel  secure ;  but  if  we  were  safe 
in  our  plastic  existence,  like  nature  and  the  gods  of  nature, 


fidelity  to  a  single  love  might  seem  foolish  in  us  ;  being 
and  possessing  any  one  thing  would  not  then  be  incompatible 
with  sooner  or  later  being  and  possessing  everything  else. 
Nature  and  substance  are  like  the  absolute  actor  with  an 
equal  affinity  for  every  part,  and  changing  sex,  age,  and 
station  with  perfect  good  grace. 

A  great  principle  of  charity  in  morals  is  not  to  blame 
the  fishes  for  their  bad  taste  in  liking  to  live  under  water. 
Yet  many  philosophers  seem  to  have  sinned  against  this 
reasonable  law,  since  they  have  blamed  life  and  nature  for 
liking  to  change,  which  is  as  much  as  to  say  for  liking  to 
live.  Certainly  life  and  nature,  when  they  produce  thought, 
turn  from  themselves  towards  the  eternal,  but  it  is  by  a 
glance,  itself  momentary,  that  they  turn  to  it ;  for  if  they 
were  themselves  converted  into  something  changeless,  they 
could  neither  live,  think,  nor  turn.  In  the  realm  of  existence 
it  is  not  sinful  to  be  fugitive  nor  in  bad  taste  to  be  new. 
Accordingly  cloud  castles  have  nothing  to  blush  for  ;  if 
they  have  a  weak  hold  on  existence,  so  has  everything 
good.  We  are  warned  that  the  day  of  judgement  will  be 
full  of  surprises  :  perhaps  one  of  them  may  be  that  in 
heaven  things  are  even  more  unstable  than  on  earth,  and 
that  the  mansions  reserved  for  us  there  are  not  only  many 
but  insecure.  Cloud  castles  are  hints  to  us  that  eternity 
has  nothing  to  do  with  duration,  nor  beauty  with  substantial 
existence,  and  that  even  in  heaven  our  bliss  would  have 
to  be  founded  on  a  smiling  renunciation.  Did  Mohammed, 
I  wonder,  misunderstand  the  archangel  Gabriel  in  gathering 
that  celestial  beauties  (unlike  the  lights  and  voices  of 
Dante's  paradise)  could  be  embraced  as  well  as  admired  ? 
And  in  promising  that  our  heavenly  brides  would  daily 
recover  their  virginity,  did  he  simply  clothe  in  a  congenial 
metaphor  the  fact  that  they  would  be  different  brides  every 
day,  and  that  if  we  wished  to  dwell  in  a  true  paradise,  and 
not  in  a  quarrelsome  and  sordid  harem,  we  must  never 
dream  of  seeing  any  of  them  a  second  time  ? 

Fidelity  is  a  virtue  akin  to  habit  and  rooted  in  the 
inertia  of  animal  life,  which  would  run  amok  without  trusty 
allies  and  familiar  signals.  We  have  an  inveterate  love  of 
The  Same,  because  our  mortal  condition  obliges  us  to 
reconsider  facts  and  to  accumulate  possessions ;  by  instinct 


both  the  heart  and  the  intellect  hug  everything  they  touch, 
and  to  let  anything  go  is  a  sort  of  death  to  them.  This 
spirit  of  pathetic  fidelity  in  us  would  certainly  reproach 
those  ethereal  visions  for  being  ephemeral,  and  Cupid  for 
having  wings  and  no  heart ;  but  might  not  the  visiting 
angels  in  turn  reproach  us  for  clownishness  in  wishing  to 
detain  them  ?  They  are  not  made  of  flesh  and  blood ; 
they  are  not  condemned  to  bear  children.  Their  smile, 
their  voice,  and  the  joy  they  bring  us  are  the  only  life 
they  have.  They  are  fertile  only  like  the  clouds,  in  that 
by  dissolving  they  give  place  to  some  other  form,  no  less 
lovely  and  elusive  than  themselves ;  and  perhaps  if  we 
took  a  long  view  we  should  not  feel  that  our  own  passage 
through  existence  had  a  very  different  quality.  We  last 
as  a  strain  of  music  lasts,  and  we  go  where  it  goes.  Is  it 
not  enough  that  matter  should  illustrate  each  ideal  possi 
bility  only  once  and  for  a  moment,  and  that  Caesar  or 
Shakespeare  should  figure  once  in  this  world  ?  To  repeat 
them  would  not  intensify  their  reality,  while  it  would 
impoverish  and  make  ridiculous  the  pageant  of  time,  like 
a  stage  army  running  round  behind  the  scenes  in  order  to 
reappear.  To  come  to  an  end  is  a  virtue  when  one  has  had 
one's  day,  seeing  that  in  the  womb  of  the  infinite  there  are 
always  other  essences  no  less  deserving  of  existence. 

Even  cloud  castles,  however,  have  a  double  lien  on 
permanence.  A  flash  of  lightning  is  soon  over,  yet  so 
long  as  the  earth  is  wrapped  in  its  present  atmosphere, 
flashes  will  recur  from  time  to  time  so  very  like  this  one 
that  the  mind  will  make  the  same  comment  upon  them, 
and  its  pronouncements  on  its  past  experience  will  remain 
applicable  to  its  experience  to  come.  Fleeting  things  in 
this  way,  when  they  are  repeated,  survive  and  are  united 
in  the  wisdom  which  they  teach  us  in  common.  At  the 
same  time  they  inwardly  contain  something  positively 
eternal,  since  the  essences  they  manifest  are  immutable 
in  character,  and  from  their  platonic  heaven  laugh  at  this 
inconstant  world,  into  which  they  peep  for  a  moment, 
when  a  chance  collocation  of  atoms  suggests  one  or  another 
of  them  to  our  minds.  To  these  essences  mind  is  con 
stitutionally  addressed,  and  into  them  it  likes  to  sink  in 
its  self-forgetfulness.  It  is  only  our  poor  mother  Psyche, 


being  justly  afraid  of  growing  old,  who  must  grudge  the 
exchange  of  one  vision  for  another.  Material  life  is  sluggish 
and  conservative ;  it  would  gladly  drag  the  whole  weary 
length  of  its  past  behind  it,  like  a  worm  afraid  of  being 
cut  in  two  in  its  crawling.  It  is  haunted  by  a  ghostly 
memory,  a  wonderful  but  not  successful  expedient  for 
calling  the  dead  to  life,  in  order,  somewhat  inconsistently, 
to  mourn  over  them  and  be  comforted.  Why  not  kiss  our 
successive  pleasures  good-bye,  simply  and  without  marking 
our  preferences,  as  we  do  our  children  when  they  file  to 
bed  ?  A  free  mind  does  not  measure  the  worth  of  anything 
by  the  worth  of  anything  else.  It  is  itself  at  least  as 
plastic  as  nature  and  has  nothing  to  fear  from  revolutions. 
To  live  in  the  moment  would  indeed  be  brutish  and 
dangerous  if  we  narrowed  to  a  moment  the  time  embraced 
in  our  field  of  view,  since  with  the  wider  scope  of  thought 
come  serenity  and  dominion ;  but  to  live  in  the  moment 
is  the  only  possible  life  if  we  consider  the  spiritual  activity 
itself.  The  most  protracted  life,  in  the  actual  living,  can 
be  nothing  but  a  chain  of  moments,  each  the  seat  of  its 
irrecoverable  vision,  each  a  dramatic  perspective  of  the 
world,  seen  in  the  light  of  a  particular  passion  at  a 
particular  juncture.  But  at  each  moment  the  wholeness 
of  mind  is  spiritual  and  aesthetic,  the  wholeness  of  a 
meaning  or  a  picture,  and  no  knife  can  divide  it.  Its 
immortality,  too,  is  timeless,  like  that  of  the  truths  and 
forms  in  which  it  is  absorbed.  Therefore  apprehension 
can  afford  to  hasten  all  the  more  trippingly  in  its  career, 
touching  the  facts  here  and  there  for  a  moment,  and 
building  its  cloud  castles  out  of  light  and  air,  movement 
and  irony,  to  let  them  lapse  again  without  a  pang.  Con 
templation,  when  it  frees  itself  from  animal  anxiety  about 
existence,  ceases  to  question  and  castigate  its  visions,  as 
if  they  were  mere  signals  of  alarm  or  hints  of  hidden 
treasures ;  and  then  it  cannot  help  seeing  what  treasures 
these  visions  hold  within  themselves,  each  framing 
some  luminous  and  divine  essence,  as  a  telescope  frames 
a  star ;  and  something  of  their  inalienable  distinction 
and  firmness  seems  to  linger  in  our  minds,  though  in  the 
exigencies  of  our  hurried  life  we  must  turn  away  from  each 
of  them  and  forget  them. 



THEY  say  the  sun  is  a  very  small  star,  and  the  thing  is 
plausible  enough  in  itself,  without  the  proofs  which 
presumably  the  astronomers  can  give  of  it.  That  which 
nature  produces  she  is  apt  to  produce  in  crowds;  what 
she  does  once,  if  she  has  her  way,  she  will  do  often,  with  a 
persistency  and  monotony  which  would  be  intolerable  to 
her  if  she  were  endowed  with  memory  ;  but  hers  is  a  life 
of  habit  and  automatic  repetition,  varied  only  when  there 
is  some  hitch  in  the  clockwork,  and  she  begins  hurriedly 
beating  a  new  tune.  Accordingly,  what  any  creature 
calls  the  present  time,  the  living  interest,  the  ruling  power, 
or  the  true  religion  is  almost  always  but  as  one  leaf  in  a  tree. 
The  same  plastic  stress  which  created  it  creates  a  million 
comparable  things  around  it.  Yet  it  is  easy  for  each  to 
ignore  its  neighbours,  and  to  be  shocked  at  the  notion  of 
loving  them  as  itself  ;  for  they  all  have  their  separate 
places  or  seasons,  and  bloom  on  their  several  stems,  so 
that  an  accident  that  overwhelms  one  of  them  may  easily 
leave  the  others  unscathed.  But  for  all  that,  they  are  as 
multitudinous  and  similar  as  the  waves  of  the  sea.  Take 
any  star  at  random,  like  our  sun,  or  any  poet,  or  any  idea, 
and  whilst  certainly  it  will  be  the  nearest  and  warmest  to 
somebody,  it  is  not  at  all  likely  to  be  the  greatest  of  its 
kind,  or  even  very  remarkable. 

Nevertheless,  in  a  moral  perspective,  nearness  makes 
all  the  difference  ;  and  for  us  the  sun  is  a  veritable  ruling 
deity  and  parent  of  light ;  he  is  the  centre  and  monarch 
of  our  home  system.  Similarly  each  living  being  is  a  sort 
of  sun  to  itself  ;  this  spark  within  me,  by  whose  light  I 
see  at  .all,  is  a  great  sun  to  me  ;  and  considering  how  wide 
a  berth  other  spiritual  luminaries  seem  to  give  me,  I  must 
warm  myself  chiefly  by  my  own  combustion,  and  remain 
singularly  important  to  myself.  This  importance  belongs 
to  the  humour  of  material  existence,  visible  when  I  look 
at  my  seamy  side ;  it  vanishes  in  so  far  as  my  little  light 
actually  burns  clear,  and  my  intent  flies  with  it  to  whatever 
objects  its  rays  can  reach,  no  matter  how  distant  or  alien. 


Yet  this  very  intelligence  and  scope  in  me  are  functions 
of  my  inward  fire :  seeing,  too,  is  burning.  An  atomic 
and  spark-like  form  of  existence,  prevalent  in  nature,  is 
absolutely  essential  to  spirit ;  and  I  find  it  very  acceptable. 
It  is  a  free,  happy,  and  humble  condition.  I  welcome  the 
minute  bulk,  the  negligible  power,  the  chance  quality  and 
oddity  of  my  being,  combined  as  it  is  with  vital  in 
dependence  and  adequate  fuel  in  my  small  bunkers  for 
my  brief  voyage.  On  a  vaster  scale,  I  think  the  sun,  for 
all  his  littleness,  has  a  splendid  prerogative,  and  I  honour 
Phoebus  as  a  happy  god.  The  happiest  part  of  his  condition 
and  his  best  claim  to  deity  lie  in  this  :  that  he  can  irradiate 
and  kindle  the  frozen  or  vaporous  bodies  that  swim  about 
him  ;  he  can  create  the  moonlight  and  the  earthlight, 
much  more  powerful  than  the  moonlight.  This  earthlight, 
if  we  could  only  get  far  enough  from  the  earth  to  see  it, 
would  seem  strangely  brilliant  and  beautiful ;  it  would 
show  sea-tints  and  snow-tints  and  sand-tints  ;  there  would 
be  greens  and  purples  in  it  reflected  from  summer  and 
winter  zones,  dotted  with  cinder  scars  and  smoke-wreaths 
of  cities.  Yet  all  these  lights  are  only  sunlight,  received 
and  returned  with  thanks. 

Nor  is  this  surface  shimmer,  visible  to  telescopic 
observers,  the  only  benefit  gained  :  something  is  kept 
back  and  absorbed  ;  some  warmth  sinks  into  the  sub 
stance  of  the  earth  and  permeates  its  watery  soil,  initiating 
currents  in  the  sea  and  air,  and  quickening  many  a  nest 
of  particles  into  magnetic  and  explosive  and  contagious 
motions.  This  life  which  arises  in  the  earth  is  an  obeisance 
to  the  sun.  The  flowers  turn  to  the  light  and  the  eye 
follows  it,  animal  bodies  imbibe  it,  and  send  it  forth  again 
in  glad  looks  and  keen  attention  ;  and  when  dreams  and 
thoughts,  even  with  the  eyes  shut,  play  within  us  like 
flamelets  amongst  the  coals,  it  is  still  the  light  of  the  sun, 
strangely  stored  and  transmuted,  that  shines  in  those 
visions.  Certainly  intelligence  in  its  cognitive  intent  is 
radically  immaterial,  and  nothing  could  be  more  hetero 
geneous  from  vibrations,  attractions,  or  ethereal  currents 
than  the  power  to  make  assertions  that  shall  be 
true  or  false,  relevant  or  irrelevant  to  outlying  things  ; 
but  this  so  spiritual  power  is  profoundly  natural ;  it 


plainly  exhibits  an  animal  awaking  to  the  presence  of 
other  bodies  that  actually  surround  him,  resenting  their 
cruelty  or  wanning  to  their  conquest  and  absorption. 
Apart  from  its  roots  in  animal  predicaments,  spirit  would 
be  wholly  inexplicable  in  its  moods  and  arbitrary  in  its 
deliverance.  The  more  ecstatic  or  the  more  tragic 
experience  is,  the  more  unmistakably  it  is  the  voice  of 
matter.  It  then  obviously  retraces  and  makes  incan 
descent  the  silent  relations  of  things  with  things,  by  which 
its  weal  or  woe  is  decided.  Sometimes  it  simply  burns  in 
their  midst  and  moves  in  their  company  like  the  sun 
amongst  the  stars  he  ignores  ;  sometimes  it  gilds  in  its 
highly  coloured  lights  the  surface  of  things  turned  in  its 
direction.  Were  not  the  distances  between  bodies  spanned 
by  some  universal  gravitation  (which  we  are  now  told 
may  be  a  sort  of  light),  we  may  be  sure  that  sense  and 
fancy,  which  are  profoundly  vegetative  things,  would 
never  leap  from  their  source  and  discount  their  images 
in  the  heroic  effort  to  understand  the  world.  But  the 
fire  of  life  casts  its  passionate  illumination  on  the  dead 
things  that  control  it,  and  raises  to  aesthetic  actuality 
various  poetic  symbols  of  their  power.  Dead  things  possess, 
of  course,  in  their  own  right,  their  material  and  logical 
being,  but  they  borrow  from  the  adventitious  interest 
which  a  living  creature  must  needs  take  in  them  their 
various  moral  dignities  and  all  their  part  in  the  conscious 
world.  It  is  intelligible  that  moralists  and  psychologists 
should  be  absorbed  in  those  reflections  of  their  attention 
which  reach  them  from  things  distant  or  near,  and  that 
they  should  pronounce  the  whole  universe  to  be  nothing 
but  their  experience  of  it,  a  sort  of  rainbow  or  crescent 
kindly  decorating  their  personal  sky.  On  the  same 
principle  the  sun  (who,  being  a  material  creature,  would 
also  be  subject  to  egotism)  might  say  that  the  only  substance 
in  the  universe  was  light,  and  that  the  earth  and  moon 
were  nothing  but  ethereal  mirrors  palely  reflecting  his  own 
fire.  It  would  seem  absurd  to  him  that  the  earth  or  its 
inhabitants  should  profess  to  have  any  bowels.  Inextin 
guishable  laughter  and  self-assurance  would  seize  him  at 
the  report  that  any  dark  places  existed,  or  any  invisible 
thoughts.  He  would  never  admit  that,  in  all  this,  he  was 


himself  thinking ;  what  we  should  call  his  thoughts  he 
would  maintain  (without  thinking  !)  were  evident  meteors 
moving  and  shining  on  their  own  account. 

Such  are  the  cross-lights  of  animal  persuasion.  Things, 
when  seen,  seem  to  come  and  go  with  our  visions ;  and 
visions,  when  we  do  not  know  why  they  visit  us,  seem  to 
be  things.  But  this  is  not  the  end  of  the  story.  Opacity 
is  a  great  discoverer.  It  teaches  the  souls  of  animals  the 
existence  of  what  is  not  themselves.  Their  souls  in  fact 
live  and  spread  their  roots  in  the  darkness,  which  em 
bosoms  and  creates  the  light,  though  the  light  does  not 
comprehend  it.  If  sensuous  evidence  flooded  the  whole 
sphere  with  which  souls  are  conversant,  they  would  have 
no  reason  for  suspecting  that  there  was  anything  they  did 
not  see,  and  they  would  live  in  a  fool's  paradise  of  lucidity. 
Fortunately  for  their  wisdom,  if  not  for  their  comfort, 
they  come  upon  mysteries  and  surprises,  earthquakes  and 
rumblings  in  their  hidden  selves  and  in  their  undeciphered 
environment ;  they  live  in  time,  which  is  a  double  abyss 
of  darkness ;  and  the  primary  and  urgent  object  of  their 
curiosity  is  that  unfathomable  engine  of  nature  which 
from  its  ambush  governs  their  fortunes.  The  proud,  who 
shine  by  their  own  light,  do  not  perceive  matter,  the  fuel 
that  feeds  and  will  some  day  fail  them  ;  but  the  knowledge 
of  it  comes  to  extinct  stars  in  their  borrowed  light  and 
almost  mortal  coldness,  because  they  need  to  warm  them 
selves  at  a  distant  fire  and  to  adapt  their  seasons  to  its 
favourable  shining.  When  we  are  on  the  shady  side  of 
the  earth  we  can,  as  a  compensation,  range  in  knowledge 
far  beyond  our  painted  atmosphere,  and  far  beyond  that 
little  sun  who,  so  long  as  he  shone  upon  us,  seemed  to  ride 
at  the  top  of  heaven  ;  we  can  perceive  a  galaxy  of  other 
lights,  no  less  original  than  he,  to  which  his  glory  blinded 
us;  we  can  even  discover  how  he  himself,  if  his  hot 
head  of  burning  hair  would  only  suffer  him  to  notice  it, 
lives  subject  to  their  perpetual  influence.  Beautiful  and 
happy  god  as  Phoebus  may  be,  he  is  not  a  just  god  nor  an 
everlasting  one.  He  is  a  lyric  singer ;  he  is  not  responsible 
save  to  his  own  heart,  and  not  obliged  to  know  other 
things.  He  lives  in  the  eternal,  and  does  not  need  to  be 
perpetual.  And  he  is  often  beneficent  in  his  spontaneity, 


and  many  of  us  have  cause  to  thank  and  to  love  him. 
There  is  an  uncovenanted  society  of  spirits,  like  that  of  the 
morning  stars  singing  together,  or  of  all  the  larks  at  once 
in  the  sky ;  it  is  a  happy  accident  of  freedom  and  a  con 
spiracy  of  solitudes.  When  people  talk  together,  they  are 
at  once  entangled  in  a  mesh  of  instrumentalities,  irrelevance, 
misunderstanding,  vanity,  and  propaganda ;  and  all  to  no 
purpose,  for  why  should  creatures  become  alike  who  are 
different  ?  But  when  minds,  being  naturally  akin  and 
each  alone  in  its  own  heaven,  soliloquize  in  harmony,  saying 
compatible  things  only  because  their  hearts  are  similar, 
then  society  is  friendship  in  the  spirit ;  and  the  unison  of 
many  thoughts  twinkles  happily  in  the  night  across  the 
void  of  separation. 



To  be  born  is  painful,  and  the  profit  of  it  so  uncertain 
that  we  need  not  wonder  if  sometimes  the  mind  as  well 
as  the  body  seems  to  hold  back?)  The  winds  of  February 
are  not  colder  to  a  featherless  chick  than  are  the  surprises 
which  nature  and  truth  bring  to  our  dreaming  egotism. 
It  was  warm  and  safe  in  the  egg;  exciting  enough,  too, 
to  feel  a  new  organ  throbbing  here  or  a  fresh  limb  growing 
out  there.  No  suspicion  visited  the  happy  creature  that 
these  budding  domestic  functions  were  but  preparations 
for  foreign  wars  and  omens  of  a  disastrous  death,  to  over 
take  it  sooner  or  later  in  a  barbarous,  militant,  incompre 
hensible  world.  Of  death,  and  even  of  birth  (its  ominous 
counterpart)  the  embryo  had  no  idea.  It  believed  simply 
in  the  tight  spherical  universe  which  it  knew,  and  was 
confident  of  living  in  it  for  ever.  It  would  have  thought 
heaven  had  fallen  if  its  shell  had  cracked.  How  should 
life  be  possible  in  a  world  of  uncertain  dimensions,  where 
incalculable  blows  might  fall  upon  us  at  any  time  from 
any  quarter  ?  What  a  wild  philosophy,  to  invent  objects 
and  dangers  of  which  there  was  absolutely  no  experience  ! 
And  yet  for  us  now,  accustomed  to  the  buffets  and  ambi 
tions  of  life  in  the  open,  that  pre-natal  vegetative  dream 


seems  worthless  and  contemptible,  and  hardly  deserving 
the  name  of  existence. 

Could  we  have  debated  Hamlet's  question  before  we 
were  conceived,  the  answer  might  well  have  been  doubt 
ful  ;  or  rather  reason,  not  serving  any  prior  instinct,  could 
have  expressed  no  preference  and  must  have  left  the 
decision  to  chance.  Birth  and  death  are  the  right  moments 
for  absolute  courage.  But  when  once  the  die  is  cast  and 
we  exist,  so  that  Hamlet's  question  can  be  put  to  us,  the 
answer  is  already  given ;  nature  in  forming  us  has  com 
pelled  us  to  prejudge  the  case.  She  has  decreed  that  all 
the  beasts  and  many  a  man  should  propagate  without 
knowing  what  they  are  about ;  and  the  infant  soul  for  its 
part,  when  once  begotten,  is  constitutionally  bent  on 
working  out  its  powers  and  daring  the  adventure  of  life. 
To  have  made  the  great  refusal  at  the  beginning,  for  fear 
of  what  shocks  and  hardships  might  come,  seems  to  us, 
now  that  we  are  launched,  morose  and  cowardly.  Our 
soul,  with  its  fluttering  hopes  and  alarmed  curiosity,  is 
made  to  flee  from  death,  and  seems  to  think,  if  we  judge 
by  its  action,  that  to  miss  experience  altogether  is  worse  and 
sadder  than  any  life,  however  troubled  or  short.  If  nature 
has  fooled  us  in  this,  she  doubtless  saw  no  harm  in  doing 
so,  and  thought  it  quite  compatible  with  heartily  loving 
us  in  her  rough  way.  She  merely  yielded  to  a  tendency 
to  tease  which  is  strangely  prevalent  among  nurses.  With 
a  sort  of  tyrannical  fondness,  to  make  us  show  our  paces, 
she  dangled  this  exciting  and  unsatisfactory  bauble  of  life 
before  us  for  a  moment,  only  to  laugh  at  us,  and  kiss  us, 
and  presently  lay  our  head  again  on  her  appeasing  breast. 

The  fear  which  children  feel  at  being  left  in  the  dark 
or  alone  or  among  strangers  goes  somewhat  beyond  what 
a  useful  instinct  would  require  ;  for  they  are  likely  to  be 
still  pretty  well  embosomed  and  protected,  not  to  say 
smothered.  It  is  as  if  the  happy  inmate  of  some  model 
gaol  took  alarm  at  the  opening  of  his  cell  door,  thinking 
he  was  to  be  driven  out  and  forced  to  take  his  chances 
again  in  this  rough  wide  world,  when,  in  fact,  all  was  well 
and  he  was  only  being  invited  to  walk  in  the  prison  garden. 
Just  so  when  the  young  mind  hears  the  perilous  summons 
to  think,  it  is  usually  a  false  alarm.  In  its  philosophical 


excursions  it  is  likely  to  remain  well  blanketed  from  the 
truth  and  comfortably  muffled  in  its  own  atmosphere. 
Groping  and  empirical  in  its  habits,  it  will  continue  in  the 
path  it  happens  to  have  turned  into  ;  for  in  a  fog  how  should 
it  otherwise  choose  its  direction  ?  Its  natural  preference 
is  to  be  guided  by  touch  and  smell,  but  it  sometimes  finds 
it  convenient  to  use  its  eyes  and  ears  as  a  substitute.  So 
long  as  the  reference  to  the  vegetative  soul  and  its  comforts 
remains  dominant,  this  substitution  is  harmless.  Sights 
and  sounds  will  then  be  but  flowers  in  the  prisoner's  garden, 
and  intelligence  a  maze  through  which  at  best  he  will  find 
his  way  home  again.  Some  danger  there  always  is,  even 
in  such  an  outing  ;  for  this  walled  garden  has  gates  into 
the  fields,  which  by  chance  may  be  left  open.  Sight  and 
sound,  in  their  useful  ministrations,  may  create  a  new 
interest,  and  run  into  sheer  music  and  star-gazing.  The 
life  the  senses  were  meant  to  serve  will  then  be  forgotten  ; 
the  psychic  atmosphere — which  of  course  is  indispensable — 
will  be  pierced,  discounted,  and  used  as  a  pleasant  vehicle 
to  things  and  to  truths  ;  and  the  motherly  soul,  having 
unintentionally  given  birth  to  the  intellect,  will  grumble 
at  her  runaway  and  thankless  child.  As  for  the  truant 
himself,  Hamlet's  question  will  lapse  from  his  view 
altogether,  not  because  nature  has  answered  it  for  him 
beforehand,  but  because  his  own  disinterestedness  and 
rapture  have  robbed  it  of  all  urgency.  Intellect  is 
passionate,  and  natural,  and  human  enough,  as  singing 
is ;  it  is  all  the  purer  and  keener  for  having  emancipated 
itself,  like  singing,  from  its  uses,  if  it  ever  had  any,  and 
having  become  a  delight  in  itself.  But  it  is  not  concerned 
with  its  own  organs  or  their  longevity;  it  cannot  under 
stand  why  its  mother,  the  earthly  soul,  thinks  all  the  good 
and  evil  things  that  happen  in  this  world  are  of  no  conse 
quence,  if  they  do  not  happen  to  her. 


WHAT  is  it  that  governs  the  Englishman  ?     Certainly  not 
intelligence ;    seldom  passion  ;    hardly  self-interest,  since 


what  we  call  self-interest  is  nothing  but  some  dull  passion 
served  by  a  brisk  intelligence.     The  Englishman's  heart 
is  perhaps  capricious  or  silent ;    it  is  seldom  designing  or 
mean.     There  are  nations  where  people  are  always  inno 
cently  explaining  how  they  have  been  lying  and  cheating 
in  small  matters,  to  get  out  of  some  predicament,  or  secure 
some  advantage  ;    that  seems  to  them  a  part  of  the  art 
of  living.     Such  is  not  the  Englishman's  way  :   it  is  easier 
for  him  to  face  or  to  break  opposition  than  to  circumvent 
it.     If  we  tried  to  say  that  what  governs  him  is  convention, 
we  should  have  to  ask  ourselves  how  it  comes  about  that 
England   is   the    paradise    of    individuality,    eccentricity, 
heresy,   anomalies,  hobbies,   and  humours.     Nowhere  do 
we  come  oftener  upon  those  two  social  abortions — the 
affected  and  the  disaffected.     Where  else  would  a  man 
inform  you,  with  a  sort  of  proud  challenge,  that  he  lived 
on  nuts,  or  was  in  correspondence  through  a  medium  with 
Sir  Joshua  Reynolds,  or  had  been  disgustingly  housed  when 
last  in  prison  ?     Where  else  would  a  young  woman,  in 
dress  and  manners  the  close  copy  of  a  man,  tell  you  that 
her  parents  were  odious,  and  that  she  desired  a  husband 
but  no  children,  or  children  without  a  husband  ?     It  is 
true  that  these  novelties  soon  become  the  conventions 
of  some  narrower  circle,  or  may  even  have  been  adopted 
en   bloc   in   emotional   desperation,    as   when   people   are 
converted ;    and  the  oddest  sects  demand  the  strictest 
self-surrender.     Nevertheless,   when   people   are   dissident 
and  supercilious  by  temperament,  they  manage  to  wear 
their  uniforms  with  a  difference,  turning  them  by  some 
lordly  adaptation  into  a  part  of  their  own  person. 

Let  me  come  to  the  point  boldly ;  what  governs  the 
Englishman  is  his  inner  atmosphere,  the  weather  in  his 
soul.  It  is  nothing  particularly  spiritual  or  mysterious. 
When  he  has  taken  his  exercise  and  is  drinking  his  tea  or 
his  beer  and  lighting  his  pipe  ;  when,  in  his  garden  or  by 
his  fire,  he  sprawls  in  an  aggressively  comfortable  chair  ; 
when,  well-washed  and  well-brushed,  he  resolutely  turns 
in  church  to  the  east  and  recites  the  Creed  (with  genu 
flexions,  if  he  likes  genuflexions)  without  in  the  least 
implying  that  he  believes  one  word  of  it ;  when  he  hears 
or  sings  the  most  crudely  sentimental  and  thinnest  of 


popular  songs,  unmoved  but  not  disgusted  ;  when  he  makes 
up  his  mind  who  is  his  best  friend  or  his  favourite  poet 
when  he  adopts  a  party  or  a  sweetheart ;  when  he  is 
hunting  or  shooting  or  boating,  or  striding  through  the 
fields  ;  when  he  is  choosing  his  clothes  or  his  profession — 
never  is  it  a  precise  reason,  or  purpose,  or  outer  fact  that 
determines  him ;  it  is  always  the  atmosphere  of  his  inner 

To  say  that  this  atmosphere  was  simply  a  sense  of 
physical  well-being,  of  coursing  blood  and  a  prosperous 
digestion,  would  be  far  too  gross ;  for  while  psychic 
weather  is  all  that,  it  is  also  a  witness  to  some  settled 
disposition,  some  ripening  inclination  for  this  or  that, 
deeply  rooted  in  the  soul.  It  gives  a  sense  of  direction 
in  life  which  is  virtually  a  code  of  ethics,  and  a  religion 
behind  religion.  On  the  other  hand,  to  say  it  was  the 
vision  of  any  ideal  or  allegiance  to  any  principle  would 
be  making  it  far  too  articulate  and  abstract.  The  inner 
atmosphere,  when  compelled  to  condense  into  words, 
may  precipitate  some  curt  maxim  or  over-simple  theory 
as  a  sort  of  war-cry ;  but  its  puerile  language  does  it  in 
justice,  because  it  broods  at  a  much  deeper  level  than 
language  or  even  thought.  It  is  a  mass  of  dumb  instincts 
and  allegiances,  the  love  of  a  certain  quality  of  life,  to 
be  maintained  manfully.  It  is  pregnant  with  many  a 
stubborn  assertion  and  rejection.  It  fights  under  its 
trivial  fluttering  opinions  like  a  smoking  battleship  under 
its  flags  and  signals  ;  you  must  consider,  not  what  they 
are,  but  why  they  have  been  hoisted  and  will  not  be 
lowered.  One  is  tempted  at  times  to  turn  away  in  despair 
from  the  most  delightful  acquaintance — the  picture  of 
manliness,  grace,  simplicity,  and  honour,  apparently  rich 
in  knowledge  and  humour — because  of  some  enormous 
platitude  he  reverts  to,  some  hopelessly  stupid  little  dogma 
from  which  one  knows  that  nothing  can  ever  liberate 
him.  The  reformer  must  give  him  up ;  but  why 
should  one  wish  to  reform  a  person  so  much  better  than 
oneself  ?  He  is  like  a  thoroughbred  horse,  satisfying  to 
the  trained  eye,  docile  to  the  light  touch,  and  coursing  in 
most  wonderful  unison  with  you  through  the  open  world. 
What  do  you  care  what  words  he  uses  ?  Are  you  impatient 


with  the  lark  because  he  sings  rather  than  talks  ?  and  if  he 
could  talk,  would  you  be  irritated  by  his  curious  opinions  ? 
Of  course,  if  any  one  positively  asserts  what  is  contrary 
to  fact,  there  is  an  error,  though  the  error  may  be  harm 
less  ;  and  most  divergencies  between  men  should  interest 
us  rather  than  offend  us,  because  they  are  effects  of  per 
spective,  or  of  legitimate  diversity  in  experience  and 
interests.  Trust  the  man  who  hesitates  in  his  speech  and 
is  quick  and  steady  in  action,  but  beware  of  long  arguments 
and  long  beards.  Jupiter  decided  the  most  intricate 
questions  with  a  nod,  and  a  very  few  words  and  no  gestures 
suffice  for  the  Englishman  to  make  his  inner  mind  felt 
most  unequivocably  when  occasion  requires. 

Instinctively  the  Englishman  is  no  missionary,  no 
conqueror.  He  prefers  the  country  to  the  town,  and 
home  to  foreign  parts.  He  is  rather  glad  and  relieved  if 
only  natives  will  remain  natives  and  strangers  strangers, 
and  at  a  comfortable  distance  from  himself.  Yet  outwardly 
he  is  most  hospitable  and  accepts  almost  anj/body  for  the 
time  being  ;  he  travels  and  conquers  without  a  settled 
design,  because  he  has  the  instinct  of  exploration.  His 
adventures  are  all  external ;  they  change  him  so  little 
that  he  is  not  afraid  of  them.  He  carries  his  English 
weather  in  his  heart  wherever  he  goes,  and  it  becomes  a 
cool  spot  in  the  desert,  and  a  steady  and  sane  oracle 
amongst  all  the  deliriums  of  mankind.  Never  since  the 
heroic  days  of  Greece  has  the  world  had  such  a  sweet, 
just,  boyish  master.  It  will  be  a  black  day  for  the  human 
race  when  scientific  blackguards,  conspirators,  churls,  and 
fanatics  manage  to  supplant  him. 


ALL  peoples  that  dwell  by  the  sea  sometimes  venture  out 
upon  it.  The  boys  are  eager  to  swim  and  sail,  and  the 
men  may  be  turned  into  habitual  navigators  by  the  spirit 
of  enterprise  or  by  necessity.  But  some  races  take  to  the 
water  more  kindly  than  others,  either  because  they  love 


the  waves  more  or  the  furrow  less.  We  may  imagine  that 
sheer  distress  drove  the  Norse  fishermen  and  pirates  into 
their  open  boats.  The  ocean  they  explored  was  rough 
and  desolate ;  the  fish  and  the  pillaged  foreigner  had  to 
compensate  them  for  their  privations.  They  quitted  their 
fiords  and  brackish  islands  dreaming  of  happier  lands. 
But  with  the  Greeks  and  the  English  the  case  was  some 
what  different.  There  are  no  happier  lands  than  theirs  ; 
and  they  set  forth  for  the  most  part  on  summer  seas, 
towards  wilder  and  less  populous  regions.  They  went 
armed,  of  course,  and  ready  to  give  battle  :  they  had  no 
scruples  about  carrying  home  anything  they  might  purloin 
or  obtain  by  enormously  advantageous  barter,  but  they 
were  not  in  quest  of  softer  climes  or  foreign  models ;  their 
home  remained  their  ideal.  They  were  scarcely  willing  to 
settle  in  foreign  parts  unless  they  could  live  their  home 
life  there. 

This  love  of  home  merged  in  their  minds  with  the  love 
of  liberty ;  it  was  a  loyalty  inwardly  grounded  and  not  a 
mere  tribute  to  habit  or  external  influences.  They  could 
consequently  retain  their  manners  wherever  they  went, 
and  could  found  free  colonies,  almost  as  Greek  or  as  English 
as  the  mother  country  ;  for  it  was  not  Greece  that  originally 
formed  the  Greeks  nor  England  the  English,  but  the  other 
way  round  ;  the  Greeks  and  the  English,  wherever  they 
might  be,  spun  their  institutions  about  them  like  a  cocoon. 
Certainly  the  geographical  environment  was  favourable ; 
the  skies  and  waters  that  embosomed  them — when  in  their 
migrations  they  had  reached  those  climes — simply  met 
their  native  genius  half-way  and  allowed  it  to  bloom  as  it 
had  not  elsewhere.  But  the  winds  could  carry  that  same 
seed  to  fructify  in  other  soils  ;  and  as  there  were  many 
Greek  cities  sprung  from  one,  so  there  are  several  local 
Englands  in  Great  Britain,  and  others  all  over  the  world. 
Even  people  who  are  not  heirs  of  these  nations  according 
to  the  flesh  may  assimilate  their  spirit  in  some  measure. 
All  men  are  Greek  in  the  best  sense  in  so  far  as  they  are 
rational,  and  live  and  think  on  the  human  scale  ;  and  all 
are  English  in  so  far  as  their  souls  are  individual,  each  the 
imperturbably  dominant  cell  in  its  own  organism,  each 
faithful  to  its  inner  oracle. 


Life  at  sea  is  very  favourable  to  this  empire  of  personal 
liberty.  The  inner  man,  the  hereditary  Psyche  that  breeds 
the  body  and  its  discursive  thoughts,  craves  to  exercise 
ascendancy  ;  it  is  essentially  a  formative  principle,  an 
organ  of  government.  Mere  solitude  and  monastic  reverie, 
such  as  a  hermit  or  satirist  may  enjoy  even  in  great  cities, 
weary  and  oppress  the  Englishman.  He  wants  to  do  some 
thing  or  else  to  play  at  something.  His  thoughts  are  not 
vivid  and  substantial  enough  for  company ;  his  passions 
are  too  nebulous  to  define  their  innate  objects,  until 
accident  offers  something  that  perhaps  may  serve.  At  sea 
there  is  always  something  doing  :  you  must  mind  the  helm, 
the  sails,  or  the  engines  ;  you  must  keep  things  ship-shape  ; 
brasses  must  be  always  bright  and  eyes  sharp  ;  decorum  is 
essential,  since  discipline  is  so  ;  you  may  even  dress  for 
dinner  and  read  prayers  on  Sunday.  This  routine  does  not 
trespass  on  the  liberty  and  reserve  of  your  inner  man. 
You  can  exchange  a  few  hearty  commonplaces  with  the 
other  officers  and  sailors,  or  even  with  a  casual  passenger  ; 
now  and  then  you  may  indulge  in  a  long  talk,  pacing  the 
deck  beneath  the  stars.  There  is  space,  there  is  the  constant 
shadow  of  danger,  the  chance  of  some  adventure  at  sea  or 
on  a  strange  shore.  There  is  a  continual  test  and  tension 
of  character.  There  are  degrees  of  authority  and  of 
competence,  but  the  sailor's  art  is  finite  ;  his  ship,  however 
complicated  and  delicate  a  creature,  has  a  known  structure 
and  known  organs  ;  she  will  not  do  anything  without  a 
reason  ;  she  is  not  too  wayward  (as  is  the  course  of  things 
on  terra  firma)  for  a  clear-headed  man  to  understand  nor 
for  a  firm  hand  to  steer.  Maritime  fortune  in  its  uncertainty 
has  after  all  not  many  forms  of  caprice  ;  its  worst  tricks 
are  familiar  ;  your  life-belt  is  hanging  over  your  bunk,  and 
you  are  ready. 

Every  one  grumbles  at  his  lot  and  at  his  profession  ;  but 
what  is  man  that  he  should  ask  for  more  ?  These  buffeting 
winds,  these  long  hours  of  deep  breathing,  these  habits  of 
quick  decision  and  sharp  movement  whet  your  appetite  ; 
you  relish  your  solid  plain  food,  whilst  your  accustomed 
drink  smooths  over  the  petty  worries  of  the  day,  and 
liberates  your  private  musings  ;  and  what  a  companionable 
thing  your  pipe  is  !  The  women — dear,  dogmatic,  fussy 


angels — are  not  here ;  that  is  a  relief ;  and  yet  you  are 
counting  the  weeks  before  you  can  return  to  them  at  home. 
And  all  those  tender  episodes  of  a  more  fugitive  sort,  how 
merrily  you  think  them  over  now  !  more  merrily  perhaps 
than  you  enacted  them,  since  you  need  not  call  to  mind 
the  little  shabby  accompaniments  and  false  notes  that  may 
have  marred  them  in  reality.  Your  remoter  future,  too, 
is  smiling  enough  for  an  honest  man  who  believes  in  God 
and  is  not  a  snob  in  the  things  of  the  spirit.  You  see  in 
your  mind's  eye  a  cottage  on  some  sunny  hillside  over 
looking  the  sea  ;  near  it,  from  a  signal-post  that  is  a  ship's 
mast,  the  flags  are  flapping  in  the  breeze  ;  your  children 
are  playing  on  the  beach  —  except  the  eldest,  perhaps, 
already  a  sailor.  There  is  a  blessed  simplicity  about  the 
sea,  with  its  vast  inhumanity  islanding  and  freeing  the 
humanity  of  man. 


THE  secret  of  English  mastery  is  self-mastery.  The  English 
man  establishes  a  sort  of  satisfaction  and  equilibrium  in  his 
inner  man,  and  from  that  citadel  of  lightness  he  easily 
measures  the  value  of  everything  that  comes  within  his 
moral  horizon.  In  what  may  lie  beyond  he  takes  but  a 
feeble  interest.  Enterprising  enough  when  in  a  roving 
mood,  and  fond  of  collecting  outlandish  objects  and  ideas, 
he  seldom  allows  his  wanderings  and  discoveries  to  unhinge 
his  home  loyalties  or  ruffle  his  self  -  possession ;  and  he 
remains,  after  all  his  adventures,  intellectually  as  indolent 
and  secure  as  in  the  beginning.  As  to  speculative  truth, 
he  instinctively  halts  short  of  it,  as  it  looms  in  the  distance 
and  threatens  to  cast  a  contemptuous  and  chilling  shadow 
across  his  life.  He  would  be  very  severe  to  a  boy  who 
dreaded  cold  water  and  wouldn't  learn  to  swim ;  yet  in 
the  moral  world  he  is  himself  subject  to  illusions  of  timidity. 
He  does  not  believe,  there,  in  the  overwhelming  rewards  of 
courage.  His  chosen  life  is  indeed  beautiful — as  the  shy 
boy's  might  be — in  its  fmitude  ;  all  the  more  beautiful  and 
worth  preserving  because,  like  his  country,  it  is  an  island 


in  the  sea.  His  domestic  thermometer  and  barometer  have 
sufficed  to  guide  him  to  the  right  hygiene. 

Hygiene  does  not  require  telescopes  nor  microscopes.  It 
is  not  concerned,  like  medicine  or  psychology,  with  the 
profound  hidden  workings  of  our  bodies  or  minds,  com 
plexities  hardly  less  foreign  to  our  discoursing  selves  than 
are  the  mysteries  of  the  great  outer  world.  Hygiene  regards 
only  the  right  regimen  of  man  in  his  obvious  environment, 
judged  by  his  conscious  well-being.  If  it  goes  afield  at  all, 
it  does  so  in  the  interests  of  privacy.  All  it  asks  of  life  is 
that  it  should  be  comely,  spontaneous,  and  unimpeded  : 
all  it  asks  of  the  earth  is  that  it  should  be  fit  for  sport  and 
for  habitation.  Men,  to  be  of  the  right  hygienic  sort,  must 
love  the  earth,  and  must  know  how  to  range  in  it.  This 
the  Englishman  knows ;  and  just  as,  in  spite  of  his 
insularity,  he  loves  this  whole  terraqueous  globe  simply 
and  genuinely,  so  the  earth,  turned  into  mud  by  the  vain 
stampings  of  so  many  garrulous  and  sickly  nations,  would 
doubtless  say :  Let  the  Englishman  inhabit  me,  and  I 
shall  be  green  again. 

In  matters  of  hygiene  the  Englishman's  maxims  are 
definite  and  his  practice  refined.  He  has  discovered  what 
he  calls  good  form,  and  is  obstinately  conservative  about 
it,  not  from  inertia,  but  in  the  interests  of  pure  vitality. 
Experience  has  taught  him  the  uses  to  which  vitality  can 
be  put,  so  as  to  preserve  and  refresh  it.  He  knows  the 
right  degree  of  exertion  normally  required  to  do  things 
well — to  walk  or  to  talk,  for  instance  ;  he  does  not  saunter 
nor  scramble,  he  does  not  gesticulate  nor  scream.  In 
consequence,  perhaps,  on  extraordinary  occasions  he  fails 
at  first  to  exert  himself  enough  ;  and  his  eloquence  is  not 
torrential  nor  inspired,  even  at  those  rare  moments  when 
it  ought  to  be  so.  But  when  nothing  presses,  he  shows 
abundant  energy,  without  flurry  or  excess.  In  manners 
and  morals,  too,  he  has  found  the  right  mean  between 
anarchy  and  servitude,  and  the  wholesome  measure  of 
comfort.  What  those  who  dislike  him  call  his  hypocrisy  is 
but  timeliness  in  his  instincts,  and  a  certain  modesty  on 
their  part  in  not  intruding  upon  one  another.  Your 
prayers  are  not  necessarily  insincere  because  you  pray  only 
in  church ;  you  are  not  concealing  a  passion  if  for  a  time 


you  forget  it  and  slough  it  off.  These  alternations  are 
phases  of  the  inner  man,  not  masks  put  on  in  turn  by 
some  insidious  and  calculating  knave.  All  the  English 
man's  attitudes  and  habits — his  out-of-door  life,  his  clubs, 
his  conventicles,  his  business — when  they  are  spontaneous 
and  truly  British,  are  for  the  sake  of  his  inner  man  in  its 
privacy.  Other  people,  unless  the  game  calls  for  them, 
are  in  the  way,  and  uninteresting.  His  spirit  is  like  Words 
worth's  skylark,  true  to  the  kindred  points  of  heaven  and 
home  ;  and  perhaps  these  points  seem  to  him  kindred  only 
because  they  are  both  functions  of  himself.  Home  is  the 
centre  of  his  physical  and  moral  comfort,  his  headquarters 
in  the  war  of  life,  where  lie  his  spiritual  stores.  Heaven 
is  a  realm  of  friendly  inspiring  breezes  and  setting  suns, 
enveloping  his  rambles  and  his  perplexities.  The  world 
to  him  is  a  theatre  for  the  soliloquy  of  action.  There  is  a 
comfortable  luxuriousness  in  all  his  attitudes.  He  thinks 
the  prize  of  life  worth  winning,  but  not  worth  snatching. 
If  you  snatch  it,  as  Germans,  Jews,  and  Americans  seem 
inclined  to  do,  you  abdicate  the  sovereignty  of  your  inner 
man,  you  miss  delight,  dignity,  and  peace ;  and  in  that 
case  the  prize  of  life  has  escaped  you. 

As  the  Englishman  disdains  to  peer  and  is  slow  to 
speculate,  so  he  resents  any  meddling  or  intrusion  into  his 
own  preserves.  How  sedulously  he  plants  out  his  garden, 
however  tiny,  from  his  neighbours  and  from  the  public 
road  !  If  his  windows  look  unmistakably  on  the  street, 
at  least  he  fills  his  window-boxes  with  the  semblance  of  a 
hedge  or  a  garden,  and  scarcely  allows  the  dubious  light  to 
filter  through  his  blinds  and  lace  curtains  ;  and  the  space 
between  them,  in  the  most  dingy  tenement,  is  blocked  by 
an  artificial  plant.  He  is  quite  willing  not  to  be  able  to 
look  out,  if  only  he  can  prevent  other  people  from  looking 
in.  If  they  did,  what  would  they  see  ?  Nothing  shocking, 
surely ;  his  attitude  by  his  fireside  is  perfectly  seemly. 
He  is  not  throwing  anything  at  the  family  ;  very  likely 
they  are  not  at  home.  Nor  has  he  introduced  any  low-class 
person  by  the  tradesman's  entrance,  in  whose  company  he 
might  blush  to  be  spied.  He  is  not  in  deshabille  ;  if  he  has 
changed  any  part  of  his  street  clothes  it  has  not  been  from 
any  inclination  to  be  slovenly  in  private,  but  on  the  contrary 


to  vindicate  his  self-respect  and  domestic  decorum.  He 
does  not  dress  to  be  seen  of  men,  but  of  God.  His  elegance 
is  an  expression  of  comfort,  and  his  comfort  a  consciousness 
of  elegance.  The  eyes  of  men  disquiet  him,  eminently 
presentable  though  he  be,  and  he  thinks  it  rude  of  them  to 
stare,  even  in  simple  admiration.  It  takes  tact  and  patience 
in  strangers — perhaps  at  first  an  ostentatious  indifference 
— to  reassure  him  and  persuade  him  that  he  would  be  safe 
in  liking  them.  His  frigid  exterior  is  often  a  cuticle  to 
protect  his  natural  tenderness,  which  he  forces  himself  not 
to  express,  lest  it  should  seem  misplaced  or  clumsy.  There 
is  a  masculine  sort  of  tenderness  which  is  not  fondness,  but 
craving  and  premonition  of  things  untried  ;  and  the  young 
Englishman  is  full  of  it.  His  heart  is  quiet  and  full ;  he 
has  not  pumped  it  dry,  like  ill-bred  children,  in  tantrums 
and  effusive  fancies.  On  the  other  hand,  passions  are 
atrophied  if  their  expression  is  long  suppressed,  and  we 
soon  have  nothing  to  say  if  we  never  say  anything.  As  he 
grows  old  the  Englishman  may  come  to  suspect,  not  without 
reason,  that  he  might  not  reward  too  close  a  perusal.  His 
social  bristles  will  then  protect  his  intellectual  weakness, 
and  he  will  puff  himself  out  to  disguise  his  vacuity. 

It  is  intelligible  that  a  man  of  deep  but  inarticulate 
character  should  feel  more  at  ease  in  the  fields  and  woods, 
at  sea  or  in  remote  enterprises,  than  in  the  press  of  men. 
In  the  world  he  is  obliged  to  maintain  stiffly  principles 
which  he  would  prefer  should  be  taken  for  granted.  There 
fore  when  he  sits  in  silence  behind  his  window  curtains, 
with  his  newspaper,  his  wife,  or  his  dog,  his  monumental 
passivity  is  not  a  real  indolence.  He  is  busily  reinforcing 
his  character,  ruffled  by  the  day's  contact  with  hostile  or 
indifferent  things,  and  he  is  gathering  new  strength  for  the 
fray.  After  the  concessions  imposed  upon  him  by  necessity 
or  courtesy,  he  is  recovering  his  natural  tone.  To-morrow 
he  will  issue  forth  fresh  and  confident,  and  exactly  the 
same  as  he  was  yesterday.  His  character  is  like  his 
climate,  gentle  and  passing  readily  from  dull  to  glorious, 
and  back  again  ;  variable  on  the  surface,  yet  perpetually 
self -restored  and  invincibly  the  same. 




EVERY  one  can  see  why  the  Lion  should  be  a  symbol  for 
the  British  nation.  This  noble  animal  loves  dignified 
repose.  He  haunts  by  preference  solitary  glades  and 
pastoral  landscapes.  His  movements  are  slow,  he  yawns 
a  good  deal ;  he  has  small  squinting  eyes  high  up  in  his 
head,  a  long  displeased  nose,  and  a  prodigious  maw.  He 
apparently  has  some  difficulty  in  making  things  out  at  a 
distance,  as  if  he  had  forgotten  his  spectacles  (for  he  is 
getting  to  be  an  elderly  lion  now),  but  he  snaps  at  the 
flies  when  they  bother  him  too  much.  On  the  whole,  he 
is  a  tame  lion  ;  he  has  a  cage  called  the  Constitution,  and  a 
whole  parliament  of  keepers  with  high  wages  and  a  cockney 
accent ;  and  he  submits  to  all  the  rules  they  make  for  him, 
growling  only  when  he  is  short  of  raw  beef.  The  younger 
members  of  the  nobility  and  gentry  may  ride  on  his  back, 
and  he  obligingly  lets  his  tail  hang  out  of  the  bars,  so  that 
the  little  Americans  and  the  little  Irishmen  and  the  little 
Bolshevists,  when  they  come  to  jeer  at  him,  may  twist  it. 
Yet  when  the  old  fellow  goes  for  a  walk,  how  all  the 
domestic  and  foreign  poultry  scamper  !  They  know  he 
can  spring ;  his  strength  when  aroused  proves  altogether 
surprising  and  unaccountable,  he  never  seems  to  mind  a 
blow,  and  his  courage  is  terrible.  The  cattle,  seeing  there 
is  no  safety  in  flight,  herd  together  when  he  appears  on  the 
horizon,  and  try  to  look  unconscious  ;  the  hyenas  go  to 
snarl  at  a  distance  ;  the  eagles  and  the  serpents  aver 
afterwards  that  they  were  asleep.  Even  the  insects  that 
buzz  about  his  ears,  and  the  very  vermin  in  his  skin, 
know  him  for  the  king  of  beasts. 

But  why  should  the  other  supporter  of  the  British 
arms  be  the  Unicorn  ?  What  are  the  mystic  implica 
tions  of  having  a  single  horn  ?  This  can  hardly  be  the 
monster  spoken  of  in  Scripture,  into  the  reason  for  whose 
existence,  whether  he  be  the  rhinoceros  of  natural  history 
or  a  slip  of  an  inspired  pen,  it  would  be  blasphemy  to 
inquire.  This  Unicorn  is  a  creature  of  mediaeval  fancy, 
a  horse  rampant  argent,  only  with  something  queer  about 


his  head,  as  if  a  croquet-stake  had  been  driven  into  it,  or 
he  wore  a  very  high  and  attenuated  fool's  cap.  It  would 
be  far-fetched  to  see  in  this  ornament  any  allusion  to 
deceived  husbands,  as  if  in  England  the  alleged  injury 
never  seemed  worth  two  horns,  or  divorce  and  damages 
soon  removed  one  of  them.  More  plausible  is  the  view 
that,  as  the  Lion  obviously  expresses  the  British  char 
acter,  so  the  Unicorn  somewhat  more  subtly  expresses  the 
British  intellect.  Whereas  most  truths  have  two  faces, 
and  at  least  half  of  any  solid  fact  escapes  any  single  view 
of  it,  the  English  mind  is  monocular ;  the  odd  and  the 
singular  have  a  special  charm  for  it.  This  love  of  the 
particular  and  the  original  leads  the  Englishman  far 
afield  in  the  search  for  it ;  he  collects  curios,  and  taking 
all  the  nation  together,  there  is  perhaps  nothing  that 
some  Englishman  has  not  seen,  thought,  or  known  ;  but 
who  sees  things  as  a  whole,  or  anything  in  its  right  place  ? 
He  inevitably  rides  some  hobby.  He  travels  through  the 
wide  world  with  one  eye  shut,  hops  all  over  it  on  one  leg, 
and  plays  all  his  scales  with  one  ringer.  There  is  fervour, 
there  is  accuracy,  there  is  kindness  in  his  gaze,  but  there 
is  no  comprehension.  He  will  defend  the  silliest  opinion 
with  a  mint  of  learning,  and  espouse  the  worst  of  causes 
on  the  highest  principles.  It  is  notorious  elsewhere  that 
the  world  is  round,  that  nature  has  bulk,  and  three  if  not 
four  dimensions  ;  it  is  a  truism  that  things  cannot  be 
seen  as  a  whole  except  in  imagination.  But  imagination, 
if  he  has  it,  the  Englishman  is  too  scrupulous  to  trust ; 
he  observes  the  shapes  and  the  colours  of  things  intently, 
and  behold,  they  are  quite  flat,  and  he  challenges  you  to 
show  why,  when  every  visible  part  of  everything  is  flat, 
anything  should  be  supposed  to  be  round.  He  is  a  keen  re 
former,  and  certainly  the  world  would  be  much  simpler,  right 
opinion  would  be  much  righter  and  wrong  opinion  much 
wronger,  if  things  had  no  third  and  no  fourth  dimension. 

Ah,  why  did  those  early  phrenologists,  true  and  typical 
Englishmen  as  they  were,  denounce  the  innocent  midwife 
who  by  a  little  timely  pressure  on  the  infant  skull  com 
pressed,  as  they  said,  "  the  oval  of  genius  into  the  flatness 
of  boobyism  "  ?  Let  us  not  be  cowed  by  a  malicious 
epithet.  What  some  people  choose  to  call  boobyism  and 


flatness  may  be  the  simplest,  the  most  British,  the  most 
scientific  philosophy.  Your  true  booby  may  be  only  he 
who,  having  perforce  but  a  flat  view  of  a  flat  world,  prates 
of  genius  and  rotundity.  Blessed  are  they  whose  eye  is 
single.  Only  when  very  drunk  do  we  acknowledge  our 
double  optics  ;  when  sober  we  endeavour  to  correct  and 
ignore  this  visual  duplicity  and  to  see  as  respectably  as  if 
we  had  only  one  eye.  The  Unicorn  might  well  say  the 
same  thing  of  two -horned  beasts.  Such  double  and 
crooked  weapons  are  wasteful  and  absurd.  You  can  use 
only  one  horn  effectively  even  if  you  have  two,  but  in  a 
sidelong  and  cross-eyed  fashion  ;  else  your  prey  simply 
nestles  between,  where  eye  cannot  see  it  nor  horn  probe  it. 
A  single  straight  horn,  on  the  contrary,  is  like  a  lancet  ; 
it  pierces  to  the  heart  of  the  enemy  by  a  sure  frontal 
attack  :  nothing  like  it  for  pricking  a  bubble,  or  pointing 
to  a  fact  and  scathingly  asking  the  Government  if  they  are 
aware  of  it.  In  music  likewise  every  pure  melody  passes 
from  single  note  to  note,  as  do  the  sweet  songs  of  nature. 
Away  with  your  demoniac  orchestras,  and  your  mad 
pianist,  tossing  his  mane,  and  banging  with  his  ten  fingers 
and  his  two  feet  at  once !  As  to  walking  on  two  feet, 
that  also  is  mere  wobbling  and,  as  Schopenhauer  observed, 
a  fall  perpetually  arrested.  It  is  an  unstable  compromise 
between  going  on  all  fours,  if  you  want  to  be  safe,  and 
standing  on  one  leg,  like  the  exquisite  flamingo,  if  you 
aspire  to  be  graceful  and  spiritually  sensitive.  There  is 
really  no  biped  in  nature  except  ridiculous  man,  as  if  the 
prancing  Unicorn  had  succeeded  in  always  being  rampant ; 
your  feathered  creatures  are  bipeds  only  on  occasion 
and  in  their  off  moments ;  essentially  they  are  winged 
beings,  and  their  legs  serve  only  to  prop  them  when  at 
rest,  like  the  foot-piece  of  a  motor-cycle  which  you  let 
down  when  it  stops. 

The  Lion  is  an  actual  beast,  the  Unicorn  a  chimera ; 
and  is  not  England  in  fact  always  buoyed  up  on  one 
side  by  some  chimera,  as  on  the  other  by  a  sense  for  fact  ? 
Illusions  are  mighty,  and  must  be  reckoned  with  in  this 
world  ;  but  it  is  not  necessary  to  share  them  or  even 
to  understand  them  from  within,  because  being  illusions 
they  do  not  prophesy  the  probable  consequences  of  their 


existence ;  they  are  irrelevant  in  aspect  to  what  they  in 
volve  in  effect.  The  dove  of  peace  brings  new  wars,  the 
religion  of  love  instigates  crusades  and  lights  faggots, 
metaphysical  idealism  in  practice  is  the  worship  of 
Mammon,  government  by  the  people  establishes  the  boss, 
free  trade  creates  monopolies,  fondness  smothers  its  pet, 
assurance  precipitates  disaster,  fury  ends  in  smoke  and  in 
shaking  hands.  The  shaggy  Lion  is  dimly  aware  of  all 
this ;  he  is  ponderous  and  taciturn  by  an  instinctive 
philosophy.  Why  should  he  be  troubled  about  the  dreams 
of  the  Unicorn,  more  than  about  those  of  the  nightingale 
or  the  spider  ?  He  can  roughly  discount  these  creatures' 
habits,  in  so  far  as  they  touch  him  at  all,  without  decipher 
ing  their  fantastic  minds.  That  makes  the  strength  of 
England  in  the  world,  the  leonine  fortitude  that  helps  her, 
through  a  thousand  stupidities  and  blunders,  always  to 
pull  through.  But  England  is  also,  more  than  any  other 
country,  the  land  of  poetry  and  of  the  inner  man.  Her 
sunlight  and  mists,  her  fields,  cliffs,  and  moors  are  full  of 
aerial  enchantment  ;  it  is  a  land  of  tenderness  and  dreams. 
The  whole  nation  hugs  its  hallowed  shams  ;  there  is  a 
real  happiness,  a  sense  of  safety,  in  agreeing  not  to  acknow 
ledge  the  obvious  ;  there  is  a  universal  conspiracy  of  respect 
for  the  non-existent.  English  religion,  English  philosophy, 
English  law,  English  domesticity  could  not  get  on  without 
this  "  tendency  to  feign."  And  see  how  admissible,  how 
almost  natural  this  chimera  is.  A  milk-white  pony, 
elegantly  Arabian,  with  a  mane  like  sea-foam,  and  a  tail 
like  a  little  silvery  comet,  sensitive  nostrils,  eyes  alight 
with  recognition,  a  steed  such  as  Phoebus  might  well  water 
at  those  springs  that  lie  in  the  chalices  of  flowers,  a  symbol 
at  once  of  impetuosity  and  obedience,  a  heraldic  image 
for  the  daintiness  of  Ariel  and  the  purity  of  Galahad. 
If  somehow  we  suspect  that  the  poetical  creature  is  light- 
witted,  the  stern  Lion  opposite  finds  him  nevertheless  a 
sprightly  and  tender  companion,  as  King  Lear  did  his 
exquisite  Fool.  Such  a  Pegasus  cannot  be  a  normal 
horse ;  he  was  hatched  in  a  cloud,  and  at  his  birth  some 
inexorable  ironic  deity  drove  a  croquet  -  stake  into  his 
pate,  and  set  an  attenuated  crown,  very  like  a  fool's  cap, 
between  his  startled  ears. 

DONS  43 


DONS  are  picturesque  figures.  Their  fussy  ways  and  their 
oddities,  personal  and  intellectual,  are  as  becoming  to  them 
as  black  feathers  to  the  blackbird.  Their  minds  are  all 
gaunt  pinnacles,  closed  gates,  and  little  hidden  gardens. 
A  mediaeval  tradition  survives  in  their  notion  of  learning 
and  in  their  manner  of  life  ;  they  are  monks  flown  from  the 
dovecot,  scholastics  carrying  their  punctilious  habits  into 
the  family  circle.  In  the  grander  ones  there  may  be 
some  assimilation  to  a  prelate,  a  country  gentleman,  or  a 
party  leader ;  but  the  rank  and  file  are  modest,  industrious 
pedagogues,  sticklers  for  routine,  with  a  squinting  know 
ledge  of  old  books  and  of  young  men.  Their  politics  are 
narrow  and  their  religion  dubious.  There  was  always 
something  slippery  in  the  orthodoxy  of  scholastics,  even 
in  the  Middle  Ages  ;  they  are  so  eager  to  define,  to  correct, 
and  to  trace  back  everything,  that  they  tend  to  cut  the 
cloth  on  their  own  bias,  and  to  make  some  crotchet  of  theirs 
the  fulcrum  of  the  universe.  The  thoughts  of  these  men 
are  like  the  Sibylline  leaves,  profound  but  lost.  I  should 
not  call  them  pedants,  because  what  they  pursue  and  insist 
on  in  little  things  is  the  shadow  of  something  great ;  trifles, 
as  Michael  Angelo  said,  make  perfection,  and  perfection 
is  no  trifle.  Yet  dry  learning  and  much  chewing  of  the 
cud  take  the  place  amongst  them  of  the  two  ways  men  have 
of  really  understanding  the  world — science,  which  explores 
it,  and  sound  wit,  which  estimates  humanly  the  value  of 
science  and  of  everything  else. 

The  function  of  dons  is  to  expound  a  few  classic  docu 
ments,  and  to  hand  down  as  large  and  as  pleasant  a  store 
as  possible  of  academic  habits,  maxims,  and  anecdotes. 
They  peruse  with  distrust  the  new  books  published  on  the 
subject  of  their  teaching  ;  they  refer  to  them  sometimes 
sarcastically,  but  their  teaching  remains  the  same.  Their 
conversation  with  outsiders  is  painfully  amiable  for  a 
while  ;  lassitude  soon  puts  the  damper  on  it,  unless  they 
can  lapse  into  the  academic  question  of  the  day,  or  take 
up  the  circle  of  their  good  old  stories.  Their  originality 


runs  to  interpreting  some  old  text  afresh,  wearing  some 
odd  garment,  or  frequenting  in  the  holidays  some  un 
frequented  spot.  When  they  are  bachelors,  as  properly 
they  should  be,  their  pupils  are  their  chief  link  with  the 
world  of  affection,  with  mischievous  and  merry  things ; 
and  in  exchange  for  this  whiff  of  life,  which  they  receive 
with  each  yearly  invasion  of  flowering  youth,  like  the  fresh 
scent  of  hay  every  summer  from  the  meadows,  they  furnish 
those  empty  minds  with  some  humorous  memories,  and 
some  shreds  of  knowledge.  It  does  not  matter  very  much 
whether  what  a  don  says  is  right  or  wrong,  provided  it 
is  quotable  ;  nobody  considers  his  opinions  for  the  matter 
they  convey  ;  the  point  is  that  by  hearing  them  the  pupils 
and  the  public  may  discover  what  opinions,  and  on  what 
subjects,  it  is  possible  for  mortals  to  devise.  Their  maxims 
are  like  those  of  the  early  Greek  philosophers,  a  proper 
introduction  to  the  good  society  of  the  intellectual  world. 
So  are  the  general  systems  to  which  the  dons  may  be 
addicted,  probably  some  revision  of  Christian  theology, 
of  Platonic  mysticism,  or  of  German  philosophy.  Such 
foreign  doctrines  do  very  well  for  the  dons  of  successive 
epochs,  native  British  philosophy  not  being  fitted  to  edify 
the  minds  of  the  young  :  those  vaster  constructions  appeal 
more  to  the  imagination,  and  their  very  artificiality  and 
ticklish  architecture,  like  that  of  a  house  of  cards,  are  part 
of  their  function,  calling  for  paradoxical  faith  and — what 
youth  loves  quite  as  much — for  captious  and  sophistical 
argument.  They  lie  in  the  fourth  dimension  of  human 
belief,  amongst  the  epicycles  which  ingenious  error 
describes  about  the  unknown  orbit  of  truth ;  for  the 
truth  is  not  itself  luminous,  as  wit  is ;  the  truth  travels 
silently  in  the  night  and  requires  to  be  caught  by  the 
searchlight  of  wit  to  become  visible.  Meantime  the  mind 
plays  innocently  with  its  own  phosphorescence,  which  is 
what  we  call  culture  and  what  dons  are  created  to  keep 
alive.  Wit  the  dons  often  have,  of  an  oblique  kind,  in 
the  midst  of  their  much-indulged  prejudices  and  foibles  ; 
and  what  with  glints  of  wit  and  scraps  of  learning,  the 
soul  is  not  sent  away  empty  from  their  door :  better  fed 
and  healthier,  indeed,  for  these  rich  crumbs  from  the 
banquet  of  antiquity,  when  thought  was  fresh,  than  if 

DONS  45 

it  had  been  reared  on  a  stuffy  diet  of  useful  knowledge, 
or  on  some  single  dogmatic  system,  to  which  life-slavery 
is  attached.  Poor,  brusque,  comic,  venerable  dons  !  You 
watched  over  us  tenderly  once,  whilst  you  blew  your  long 
noses  at  us  and  scolded  ;  then  we  thought  only  of  the 
roses  in  your  garden,  of  your  succulent  dinners,  or  perhaps 
of  your  daughters  ;  but  now  we  understand  that  you  had 
hearts  yourselves,  that  you  were  song-birds  grown  old  in 
your  cages,  having  preferred  fidelity  to  adventure.  We 
catch  again  the  sweet  inflection  of  your  cracked  notes,  and 
we  bless  you.  You  have  washed  your  hands  among  the 
innocent ;  you  have  loved  the  beauty  of  the  Lord's  house. 


BRITISH  satirists  are  very  scornful  of  snobbery  ;  they  seem 
oppressed  by  the  thought  that  wealth,  rank,  and  finery 
are  hideously  inane  and  that  they  are  hideously  powerful. 
Are  these  moralists  really  overcome  by  a  sense  of  the 
.  vanity  of  human  wishes  ?  It  would  hardly  seem  so  ;  for 
they  often  breathe  a  sentimental  adoration  for  romantic 
love  or  philanthropy  or  adventure  or  mystic  piety  or  good 
cheer  or  ruthless  will — all  of  them  passions  as  little  likely 
as  any  snobbish  impulse  to  arise  without  some  illusion  or 
to  end  without  some  disappointment.  Why  this  exclusive 
hostility  to  the  vanities  'dear  to  the  snob  ?  Have  birth, 
money,  and  fashion  no  value  whatever  ?  Do  they  not 
dazzle  the  innocent  and  unsophisticated  with  a  distant 
image  of  happiness  ?  Are  they  not  actually,  when  enjoyed, 
very  comforting  and  delightful  things  in  their  way  ? 
What  else  than  this  sensitiveness  to  better  social  example 
— which  we  may  call  snobbery  if  we  please — lends  English 
life  in  particular  its  most  characteristic  excellences — order 
without  constraint,  leisure  without  apathy,  seclusion  with 
out  solitude,  good  manners  without  punctilio,  emulation 
without  intrigue,  splendour  without  hollowness  ?  Why 
such  bitterness  about  the  harmless  absurdities  that  may 
fringe  this  national  discipline  ?  Are  these  moralists  in 


fact  only  envious  and  sulky  ?  Is  it  sour  grapes  ?  It 
would  sometimes  seem  as  if,  in  England,  the  less  represent 
ative  a  man  was  the  more  eagerly  he  took  to  literature,  and 
thought  that  by  hating  his  fellow-men  and  despising  their 
prevalent  feelings  he  rendered  himself  eminently  fit  to  be 
their  guide  and  redeemer. 

/  In  fact,  there  is  a  philosophical  principle  implied  in 
snobbery,  a  principle  which  is  certainly  false  if  made 
absolute,  but  which  fairly  expresses  the  moral  relations 
of  things  in  a  certain  perspective.  If  we  all  really  stood 
on  different  steps  in  a  single  ladder  of  progress,  then  to 
admire  and  imitate  those  above  us  and  to  identify  our 
selves  with  them  by  hook  or  by  crook  would  be  simply  to 
accelerate  our  natural  development,  to  expand  into  our 
higher  self,  and  to  avoid  fatal  abysses  to  the  right  and  to 
the  left  of  the  path  marked  out  for  us  by  our  innate  voca 
tion.  Life  would  then  be  like  the  simple  game  which 
children  call  Follow  the  Leader ;  and  this  scrupulous 
discipleship  would  be  perfect  freedom,  since  the  soul  of 
our  leader  and  our  own  soul  that  chooses  him  would  be 
the  same.  This  principle  is  precisely  that  of  the  tran 
scendental  philosophy  where  it  maintains  that  there  is  but 
one  spirit  in  all  men,  and  one  logical  moral  evolution  for 
the  world.  In  fact,  it  is  the  Germans  rather  than  the 
English  that  are  solemn,  convinced,  and  universal  snobs. 
If  they  do  not  seem  so  much  snobs  in  particular,  it  is  because 
they  are  snobs  uberhaupt.  It  is  not  only  from  the  nobility 
that  grateful  dews  descend  on  their  sensitive  hearts,  as 
upon  open  flowers ;  they  yearn  also  after  the  professors 
and  the  artists,  and  assiduously  dress  their  domestic  mind, 
so  far  as  the  cloth  will  go,  in  the  latest  intellectual  fashion. 
Their  respect  for  what  holds  the  official  stage,  and  holds 
it  for  the  moment,  is  beautiful  in  its  completeness.  They 
can  change  their  front  without  changing  their  formation. 
And  the  occasional  pricks  and  heartburnings  of  snobbery 
are  entirely  drowned,  in  their  case,  in  its  voluminous 

rious  joys. 

On  the  whole,  however,  snobbish  sentiment  and  tran 
scendental  philosophy  do  not  express  the  facts  of  nature. 
Men  and  nations  do  not  really  march  in  single  file,  as  if 
they  were  being  shepherded  into  some  Noah's  Ark.  They 


have  perhaps  a  common  root  and  similar  beginnings,  but 
they  branch  out  at  every  step  into  forms  of  life  between 
which  there  is  no  further  interchange  of  sap,  and  no 
common  destiny.  Their  several  fruits  become  incom 
mensurable  in  beauty  and  in  value,  like  the  poetry  of 
different  languages,  and  more  disparate  the  more  each  is 
perfected  after  its  kind.  The  whale  is  not  a  first  sketch 
for  the  butterfly,  nor  its  culmination ;  the  mind  of  an  ox 
is  not  a  fuller  expression  of  that  of  a  rabbit.  The  poet  does 
not  evolve  into  the  general,  nor  vice  versa  ;  nor  does  a 
man,  in  growing  further,  become  a  woman,  superior  as  she 
may  be  in  her  own  way.  That  is  why  snobbery  is  really 
a  vice  :  it  tempts  us  to  neglect  and  despise  our  proper 
virtues  in  aping  those  of  other  people.  If  an  angel  appeared 
to  me  displaying  his  iridescent  wings  and  treble  voice  and 
heart  fluttering  with  eternal  love,  I  should  say,  "  Certainly, 
I  congratulate  you,  but  I  do  not  wish  to  resemble  you." 
Snobbery  haunts  those  who  are  not  reconciled  with  them 
selves  ;  evolution  is  the  hope  of  the  immature.  You  cannot 
be  everything.  Why  not  be  what  you  are  ?  / 

This  contentment  with  oneself,  in  its  rational  mixture 
of  pride  with  humility,  and  its  infinite  indifference  to 
possibilities  which  to  us  are  impossible,  is  well  understood 
in  the  great  East — which  is  a  moral  as  well  as  a  geo 
graphical  climate.  There  every  one  feels  that  circumstances 
have  not  made  and  cannot  unmake  the  soul.  Variations 
of  fortune  do  not  move  a  man  from  his  inborn  centre  of 
gravity.  Whatever  happens  and  whatever  people  say  he 
puts  up  with  as  he  would  with  bad  weather.  He  lets  them 
thunder  and  rage,  and  continues  to  sit  on  his  heels  in  his 
corner,  in  the  shade  or  in  the  sun  according  to  the  season, 
munching  his  crust  of  bread,  meditating  on  heaven  and 
earth,  and  publishing  on  occasion  to  the  passers-by,  or  to 
the  wilderness,  the  revelations  he  receives  from  the  spirit  ; 
and  if  these  are  particularly  vivid,  he  will  not  hesitate  to 
cry,  "  So  saith  the  Lord,"  with  an  equal  dignity  or  assurance 
whether  he  be  sage,  king,  or  beggar.  Such  firmness  and 
independence  of  character  are  admirable,  so  long  as  the 
expression  of  them  remains  merely  poetical  or  moral. 
It  is  enough  if  confessions  are  sincere,  and  aspirations 
true  to  the  heart  that  utters  them.  In  the  heights  and  the 


depths  we  are  all  solitary,  and  we  are  deceived  if  we  think 
otherwise,  even  when  people  say  they  agree  with  us,  or 
form  a  sect  under  our  name.  As  our  radical  bodily  func 
tions  are  incorrigibly  selfish  and  persistent,  so  our  ultimate 
ideals,  if  they  are  sincere,  must  for  ever  deviate  from  those 
of  others  and  find  their  zenith  in  a  different  star.  The 
moral  world  is  round  like  the  heavens,  and  the  direc 
tions  which  life  can  take  are  infinitely  divergent  and 

But  in  the  world  of  circumstances,  in  matters  of  politics 
and  business,  information,  and  thrift,  civilized  men  move 
together :  their  interests,  if  not  identical,  are  parallel, 
and  their  very  conflicts  and  rivalries  arise  out  of  this 
contact  and  relevance  in  their  aims.  Eminence  in  this 
worldly  sphere  is  unmistakable.  One  fortune  in  money 
can  be  measured  against  another  and  may  be  increased 
to  equal  it ;  and  in  government,  fashion,  and  notoriety 
some  people  are  unmistakably  at  the  top  of  the  tree,  and 
doubtless  deserve  to  be  there,  having  found  the  right 
method  of  climbing.  It  is  only  natural  that  those  who 
wish  to  climb  too  should  study  and  imitate  them.  Awe 
and  respect  for  such  persons  is  an  honest  expression  of 
social  idealism  :  it  is  an  admiration  mixed  with  curiosity 
and  with  the  desire  for  propinquity,  because  their  achieve 
ments  are  in  our  own  line  of  business  and  a  prospective 
partnership  is  not  out  of  the  question.  Their  life  is  the 
ideal  of  ours.  Yet  all  such  conventional  values  and 
instrumentalities,  in  which  we  are  perhaps  absorbed,  in 
the  end  say  nothing  to  the  heart.  If  by  chance,  in  the 
shifts  of  this  world,  we  pop  up  near  the  people  whom  we 
distantly  admired,  and  reach  the  crest  of  the  wave  in  their 
company,  we  discover  how  great  an  illusion  it  was  that  it 
would  be  good  or  possible  for  us  to  resemble  them  ;  con 
ventional  friends,  we  have  no  instincts,  joys,  or  memories 
in  common.  It  is,  perhaps,  from  quite  another  age  or 
race,  from  an  utterly  different  setting  of  worldly  tasks  and 
ambitions,  that  some  hint  of  true  friendship  and  under 
standing  reaches  us  in  our  hermitage  ;  and  even  this  hint 
is  probably  a  hollow  reverberation  of  our  own  soliloquy. 
In  this  slippery  competitive  earth  snobbery  is  not  un 
reasonable  ;  but  in  heaven  and  hell  there  are  no  snobs. 


There  every  despised  demon  hugs  his  favourite  vice  for 
ever,  and  even  the  smallest  of  the  stars  shines  with  a 
singular  glory. 


To  call  an  attitude  snobbish,  when  the  great  and  good 
recommend  it  as  the  only  right  attitude,  would  be  to 
condemn  it  without  trial ;  yet  I  do  not  know  how  else  to 
name  the  sentiment  that  happiness  of  one  sort^  is  better 
than  happiness  of  another  sort,  and  that  perfection  in 
one  animal  is  more  admirable  than  perfection  in  another. 
I  wish  there  was  a  word  for  this  arrangement  of  excellences 
in  higher  and  lower  classes  which  did  not  imply  approval 
or  disapproval  of  such  an  arrangement.  But  language  is 
terribly  moralistic,  and  I  do  not  blame  the  logicians  for 
wishing  to  invent  another  which  shall  convey  nothing 
to  the  mind  with  which  it  has  any  previous  acquaintance. 
The  Psyche,  who  is  the  mother  of  language  as  well  as  of 
intellect,  feels  things  to  be  good  or  evil  before  she  notices 
what  other  qualities  they  may  have :  and  she  never  gets 
much  beyond  the  first  dichotomy  of  her  feminine  logic  : 
wretch  and  darling,  nasty  and  nice.  This  is  perhaps  the 
true  reason  why  Plato,  who  in  some  respects  had  a  feminine 
mind  and  whose  metaphysics  follows  the  lines  of  language, 
tells  us  in  one  place  that  the  good  is  the  highest  of  the 
Ideas,  and  the  source  of  both  essence  and  existence. 
Good  and  bad  are  certainly  the  first  qualities  fixed  by 
words  :  so  that  to  call  a  man  a  snob,  for  instance,  is  a  very 
vague  description  but  a  very  clear  insult.  Suppose  we  found 
on  examination  that  the  person  in  question  had  a  retiring 
and  discriminating  disposition,  that  he  shunned  the  un 
washed,  that  he  resembled  persons  of  distinction,  and 
recognized  the  superiority  of  those  who  were  really  his 
superiors  ;  we  should  conclude  without  hesitation  that  he 
was  no  snob  at  all,  but  a  respectable,  right-minded  person. 
If  he  had  been  really  a  snob,  he  would  have  looked  up 
stupidly  to  what  has  no  true  sublimity,  like  birth  without 
money,  would  have  imitated  what  was  not  becoming  to 



his  station,  and  would  have  shunned  company,  such  as  our 
own,  which  though  perhaps  not  the  most  fashionable  is 
undoubtedly  the  best.  As  I  can  see  no  scientific  difference 
between  this  snob  and  that  no-snob,  I  am  constrained  in 
my  own  thoughts  to  class  them  together ;  but  in  order 
to  remind  myself  that  the  same  principle  may  be  approved 
in  one  case  and  condemned  in  the  other,  I  call  snobbery, 
when  people  approve  of  it,  the  higher  snobbery. 

An  interesting  advocate  of  the  higher  snobbery  is 
Nietzsche.  Although  his  admiring  eye  is  fixed  on  the 
superman,  who  is  to  supersede  our  common  or  garden 
humanity,  the  unique  excellence  of  that  future  being 
does  not  seem  to  lie  merely  in  that  he  is  future,  or  is 
destined  to  be  dominant  in  his  day  :  after  all,  everything 
was  once  future,  everything  was  once  the  coming  thing, 
and  destined  to  prevail  in  its  day.  It  is  only  human  to 
admire  and  copy  the  fashion  of  to-day,  whether  in  clothes, 
or  politics,  or  literature,  or  speculation ;  but  I  have  not 
yet  heard  of  any  snob  so  far  ahead  of  his  times  as  to  love 
the  fashions  of  doomsday.  The  worship  of  evolution, 
which  counts  for  so  much  with  many  higher  snobs,  does  not 
seem  essential  in  Nietzsche.  The  superman  no  doubt  is 
coming,  but  he  is  not  coming  to  stay,  since  the  world 
repeats  its  evolution  in  perpetual  cycles  ;  and  whilst  he 
will  give  its  highest  expression  to  the  love  of  power,  it 
does  not  appear  that  he  will  care  very  much  about  control 
ling  external  things,  or  will  be  able  to  control  them.  His 
superiority  is  to  be  intrinsic,  and  chiefly  composed  of 
freedom.  It  was  freedom,  I  think,  that  Nietzsche  sighed 
for  in  his  heart,  whilst  in  his  cavalierly  speculations  he 
talked  of  power.  At  least,  unless  by  power  he  meant  power 
to  be  oneself,  the  notion  that  all  nature  was  animated  by 
the  lust  of  power  would  lose  its  plausibility ;  the  ambition 
which  we  may  poetically  attribute  to  all  animals  is  rather 
to  appropriate  such  things  as  serve  their  use,  perfection,  or 
fancy,  and  to  leave  all  else  alone.  There  are  indications 
that  the  superman  was  to  be  a  mystic  and  a  wanderer, 
like  a  god  visiting  the  earth,  and  that  what  spell  he 
exercised  was  to  flow  from  him  almost  unawares,  whilst  he 
mused  about  himself  and  about  higher  things.  So  little 
was  his  power  to  involve  subjection  to  what  he  worked 


upon  (which  is  the  counterpart  of  all  material  power)  that 
he  was  to  disregard  the  interests  of  others  in  a  Spartan 
mood  ;  he  was  to  ride  ruthlessly  through  this  nether  world, 
half  a  poet,  half  a  scourge,  with  his  breast  uncovered  to 
every  treacherous  shaft,  and  his  head  high  in  the  air. 

Now  I  will  not  say  whether  such  a  romantic  and  Byronic 
life  is  worth  living  in  itself  ;  there  may  be  creatures  whose 
only  happiness  is  to  be  like  that,  although  I  suspect  that 
Byron  and  Nietzsche,  Lohengrin  and  Zarathustra,  had  not 
mastered  the  art  of  Socrates,  and  did  not  know  what  they 
wanted.  In  any  case,  such  a  Dionysiac  career  would  be 
good  only  as  the  humblest  human  existence  may  be  so  ; 
its  excellence  would  lie  in  its  harmony  with  the  nature 
of  him  who  follows  it,  not  in  its  bombast,  inflation,  or 
superhumanity.  Nietzsche  was  far  from  ungenerous  or 
unsympathetic  towards  the  people.  He  wished  them 
(somewhat  contemptuously)  to  be  happy,  whilst  he  and  his 
superman  remained  poetically  wretched  ;  he  even  said 
sometimes  that  in  their  own  sphere  they  might  be  perfect, 
and  added — with  that  sincerity  which,  in  him,  redeems  so 
many  follies — that  nothing  could  be  better  than  such 
perfection.  But  if  this  admission  is  to  be  taken  seriously, 
the  superman  would  be  no  better  than  the  good  slave. 
The  whole  principle  of  the  higher  snobbery  would  be 
abandoned,  and  Nietzsche  in  the  end  would  only  lead  us 
back  to  Epictetus. 

No,  the  higher  snob  will  reply,  the  perfect  superman 
may  be  no  better  than  the  perfect  slave,  but  he  is  higher. 
What  does  this  word  mean  ?  For  the  zealous  evolutionist 
it  seems  to  mean  later,  more  complicated,  requiring  a 
longer  incubation  and  a  more  special  environment.  There 
fore  what  is  higher  is  more  expensive,  and  has  a  more 
precarious  existence  than  what  is  lower ;  so  the  lady  is 
higher  than  the  woman,  fine  art  is  higher  than  useful  art, 
and  the  height  of  the  fashion  in  fine  art  is  the  highest 
point  in  it.  The  higher  is  the  more  inclusive,  requiring 
everything  else  to  produce  it,  and  itself  producing  nothing, 
or  something  higher  still.  Of  course  the  higher  is  not 
merely  the  better ;  because  the  standard  of  excellence 
itself  changes  as  we  proceed,  and  according  to  the  standard 
of  the  lower  morality  the  higher  state  which  abolishes  it 


will  be  worse.  An  orchid  may  not  be  more  beautiful  than 
a  lily,  but  it  is  higher  ;  philosophy  may  not  be  truer  than 
science,  nor  true  at  all,  but  it  is  higher,  because  so  much 
more  comprehensive ;  faith  may  not  be  more  trustworthy 
than  reason,  but  it  is  higher ;  insatiable  will  may  not  be 
more  beneficent  than  contentment  in  oneself  and  respect 
for  others,  but  it  is  higher ;  war  is  higher,  though  more 
painful,  than  peace  ;  perpetual  motion  is  not  more  reason 
able  than  movement  towards  an  end,  and  stilts  are  not 
more  convenient  than  shoes,  but  they  are  higher.  In 
everything  the  higher,  when  not  the  better,  means  what 
folly  or  vanity  cannot  bear  to  abandon.  Higher  is  a  word 
by  which  we  defend  the  indefensible  ;  it  Ts  a  declaration 
of  impenitence  on  the  part  of  unreason,  a  cry  to  create 
prejudice  in  favour  of  all  that  tyrannizes  over  mankind. 
It  is  the  watchword  of  the  higher  snob.  The  first  to  use 
it  was  Satan,  when  he  declared  that  he  was  not  satisfied 
to  be  anything  but  the  highest ;  whereas  the  highest  thinks 
it  no  derogation  to  take  the  form  of  the  lowest  since  the 
lowest,  too,  has  its  proper  perfection,  and  there  is  nothing 
better  than  that. 


ENGLAND  has  been  rich  in  poets,  in  novelists,  in  inventors, 
in  philosophers  making  new  beginnings,  in  intrepid 
travellers,  in  learned  men  whose  researches  are  a  hobby 
and  almost  a  secret.  The  land  was  once  rich  in  saints, 
and  is  still  rich  in  enthusiasts.  But  the  official  leaders  of 
the  English  people,  the  kings,  prelates,  professors,  and 
politicians,  have  usually  been  secondary  men  ;  and  even 
they  have  been  far  more  distinguished  in  their  private 
capacity  than  in  their  official  action  and  mind.  English 
genius  is  anti-professional ;  its  affinities  are  with  amateurs, 
and  there  is  something  of  the  amateur  in  the  best  English 
artists,  actors,  and  generals.  Delicacy  of  conscience, 
mental  haze,  care  not  to  outrun  the  impulse  of  the  soul, 
hold  the  Englishman  back  midway  in  his  achievements  ; 
there  is  in  him  a  vague  respect  for  the  unknown,  a  tacit 


diffidence  in  his  own  powers,  which  dissuade  him  from 
venturing  on  the  greatest  things  or  from  carrying  them 
out  in  a  comprehensive  manner.  The  truth  is  the  British 
do  not  wish  to  be  well  led.  They  are  all  individualistic 
and  aristocratic  at  heart,  and  want  no  leaders  in  ultimate 
things ;  the  inner  man  must  be  his  own  guide.  If  they 
had  to  live  under  the  shadow  of  a  splendid  monarch,  or  a 
masterful  statesman,  or  an  authoritative  religion,  or  a 
deified  state  they  would  not  feel  free.  They  wish  to  peck 
at  their  institutions,  and  tolerate  only  such  institutions  as 
they  can  peck  at.  A  certain  ineptitude  thus  comes  to  be 
amongst  them  an  aptitude  for  office  :  it  keeps  the  official 
from  acquiring  too  great  an  ascendancy.  There  is  a  sort 
of  ostracism  by  anticipation,  to  prevent  men  who  are  too 
good  from  coming  forward  and  upsetting  the  balance  of 
British  liberties  ;  very  like  the  vacuum  which  is  created  in 
America  around  distinction,  and  which  keeps  the  national 
character  there  so  true  to  type,  so  much  on  one  lively  level. 
But  in  England  distinction  exists,  because  it  escapes  into 
privacy.  It  is  reserved  for  his  Grace  in  his  library  and  her 
Ladyship  at  her  tea-table  ;  it  fills  the  nursery  with  lisping 
sweetness  and  intrepid  singleness  of  will ;  it  dwells  with 
the  poets  in  their  solitary  rambles  and  midnight  question 
ings  ;  it  bends  with  the  scholar  over  immortal  texts  ;  it 
is  shut  off  from  the  profane  by  the  high  barriers  of  school 
and  college  and  hunting-field,  by  the  sanctity  and  silence 
of  clubs,  by  the  unspoken  secrets  of  church  and  home. 

The  greatest  distinction  of  English  people,  however,  is 
one  which,  whilst  quite  personal  and  private  in  its  scope, 
is  widely  diffused  and  strikingly  characteristic  of  the  better 
part  of  the  nation  ;  I  mean,  distinction  in  the  way  of 
living.  The  Englishman  does  in  a  distinguished  way  the 
simple  things  that  other  men  might  slur  over  as  un 
important  or  essentially  gross  or  irremediable ;  he  is 
distinguished  —  he  is  disciplined,  skilful,  and  calm  —  in 
eating,  in  sport,  in  public  gatherings,  in  hardship,  in 
danger,  in  extremities.  It  is  in  physical  and  rudimentary 
behaviour  that  the  Englishman  is  an  artist ;  he  is  the  ideal 
sailor,  the  ideal  explorer,  the  ideal  comrade  in  a  tight 
place ;  he  knows  how  to  be  clean  without  fussiness,  well- 
dressed  without  show,  and  pleasure-loving  without  loud- 


ness.  This  is  why,  although  he  is  the  most  disliked  of 
men  the  world  over  (except  where  people  need  some  one 
they  can  trust)  he  is  also  the  most  imitated.  What 
ferocious  Anglophobe,  whether  a  white  man  or  a  black 
man,  is  not  immensely  flattered  if  you  pretend  to  have 
mistaken  him  for  an  Englishman  ?  After  all,  this  imitation 
of  the  physical  distinction  of  Englishmen  is  not  absurd  ; 
here  is  something  that  can  be  imitated :  it  is  really  the 
easiest  way  of  doing  easy  things,  which  only  bad  education 
and  bad  habits  have  made  difficult  for  most  people.  There 
is  nothing  impossible  in  adopting  afternoon  tea,  football, 
and  boy  scouts ;  what  is  impossible,  and  if  possible  very 
foolish,  is  to  adopt  English  religion,  philosophy,  or  political 
institutions.  But  why  should  any  one  wish  to  adopt 
them  ?  They  have  their  merits,  of  course,  and  their 
propriety  at  home  ;  but  they  are  blind  compromises,  and  it 
is  not  in  their  principles  that  the  English  are  distinguished, 
but  only  in  their  practice.  Their  accents  are  more  choice 
than  their  words,  and  their  words  more  choice  than  their 
ideas.  This,  which  might  sound  like  a  gibe,  is  to  my  mind 
a  ground  for  great  hope  and  for  some  envy.  Refinement, 
like  charity,  should  begin  at  home.  First  the  body  ought 
to  be  made  fit  and  decent,  then  speech  and  manners,  and 
habits  justly  combining  personal  initiative  with  the  power 
of  co-operating  with  others  ;  and  then,  as  this  healthy  life 
extends,  the  world  will  begin  to  open  out  to  the  mind  in 
the  right  perspectives  :  not  at  first,  perhaps  never,  in  its 
total  truth  and  its  real  proportions,  but  with  an  ever- 
enlarging  appreciation  of  what,  for  us,  it  can  contain. 
The  mind  of  the  Englishman,  starting  in  this  proud  and 
humble  and  profound  way  from  the  inner  man,  pierces  very 
often,  in  single  directions,  to  the  limit  of  human  faculty ; 
and  it  seems  to  me  to  add  to  his  humanity,  without  injury 
to  his  speculation,  that  he  instinctively  withdraws  again 
into  himself,  as  he  might  return  home  to  marry  and  settle 
after  tempting  fortune  at  the  antipodes.  His  curious 
knowledge  and  his  personal  opinions  then  become,  as  it 
were,  mementos  of  his  distant  adventures  ;  but  his  sterling 
worth  lies  in  himself.  He  is  at  his  best  when  free  impulse 
or  familiar  habit  takes  an  unquestioned  lead,  and  when 
the  mind,  not  being  expected  to  intervene,  beats  in  easy 


unison  with  the  scene  and  the  occasion,  like  a  rider  at 
home  in  the  saddle  and  one  with  his  galloping  horse. 
Then  grace  returns  to  him,  so  angular  often  in  his  forced 
acts  and  his  express  tenets  ;  the  smile  comes  unaffectedly, 
and  the  blithe  quick  words  flow  as  they  should  ;  arm  is 
linked  spontaneously  in  arm,  laughter  points  the  bull's- 
eye  of  truth,  the  whole  world  and  its  mysteries,  not  being 
pressed,  become  amiable,  and  the  soul  shines  happy,  and 
beautiful,  and  absolute  mistress  in  her  comely  house. 
Nothing  in  him  then  is  gross  ;  all  is  harmonized,  all  is 
touched  with  natural  life.  His  simplicity  becomes  whole 
ness,  and  he  no  longer  seems  dull  in  any  direction,  but  in 
all  things  sound,  sensitive,  tender,  watchful,  and  brave. 


FRIENDSHIP  is  almost  always  the  union  of  a  part  of  one 
mind  with  a  part  of  another  ;  people  are  friends  in  spots. 
Friendship  sometimes  rests  on  sharing  early  memories, 
as  do  brothers  and  schoolfellows,  who  often,  but  for  that 
now  affectionate  familiarity  with  the  same  old  days,  would 
dislike  and  irritate  one  another  extremely.  Sometimes  it 
hangs  on  passing  pleasures  and  amusements,  or  on  special 
pursuits  ;  sometimes  on  mere  convenience  and  comparative 
lack  of  friction  in  living  together.  One's  friends  are  that 
part  of  the  human  race  with  which  one  can  be  human. 
But  there  are  youthful  friendships  of  quite  another  quality, 
which  I  seem  to  have  discovered  flourishing  more  often 
and  more  frankly  in  England  than  in  other  countries  ; 
brief  echoes,  as  it  were,  of  that  love  of  comrades  so  much 
celebrated  in  antiquity.  I  do  not  refer  to  the  "  friendship 
of  virtue  "  mentioned  by  Aristotle,  which  means,  I  suppose, 
community  in  allegiance  or  in  ideals.  It  may  come  to 
that  in  the  end,  considered  externally  ;  but  community 
in  allegiance  or  in  ideals,  if  genuine,  expresses  a  common 
disposition,  and  its  roots  are  deeper  and  more  physical 
than  itself.  The  friendship  I  have  in  mind  is  a  sense  of 
this  initial  harmony  between  two  natures,  a  union  of  one 


whole  man  with  another  whole  man,  a  sympathy  between 
the  centres  of  their  being,  radiating  from  those  centres 
on  occasion  in  unanimous  thoughts,  but  not  essentially 
needing  to  radiate.  Trust  here  is  inwardly  grounded  ; 
likes  and  dislikes  run  together  without  harness,  like  the 
steeds  of  Aurora ;  you  may  take  agreement  for  granted 
without  words  ;  affection  is  generously  independent  of 
all  tests  or  external  bonds  ;  it  can  even  bear  not  to  be 
mutual,  not  to  be  recognized ;  and  in  any  case  it  shrinks 
from  the  blatancy  of  open  vows.  In  such  friendships  there 
is  a  touch  of  passion  and  of  shyness ;  an  understanding 
which  does  not  need  to  become  explicit  or  complete.  There 
is  wine  in  the  cup  ;  it  is  not  to  be  spilled  nor  gulped  down 
unrelished,  but  to  be  sipped  slowly,  soberly,  in  the  long 
summer  evening,  with  the  window  open  to  the  college 
garden,  and  the  mind  full  of  all  that  is  sweetest  to  the 

Now  there  is  a  mystery  here — though  it  need  be  no 
mystery — which  some  people  find  strange  and  distressing 
and  would  like  to  hush  up.  This  profound  physical 
sympathy  may  sometimes,  for  a  moment,  spread  to  the 
senses ;  that  is  one  of  its  possible  radiations,  though 
fugitive ;  and  there  is  a  fashionable  psychology  at  hand 
to  explain  all  friendship,  for  that  reason,  as  an  aberration 
of  sex.  Of  course  it  is  such  in  some  people,  and  in  many 
people  it  may  seem  to  be  such  at  rare  moments ;  but  it 
would  be  a  plain  abuse  of  language  to  call  a  mother's  love 
for  her  children  sexual,  even  when  they  are  boys,  although 
certainly  she  could  not  have  that  love,  nor  those  children, 
if  she  had  no  sex.  Perhaps  if  we  had  no  sex  we  should 
be  incapable  of  tenderness  of  any  sort ;  but  this  fact  does 
not  make  all  forms  of  affection  similar  in  quality  nor  in 
tendency.  The  love  of  friends  is  not,  like  the  love  of 
woman,  a  lyrical  prologue  to  nest  -  building.  Engaging, 
no  doubt,  the  same  radical  instincts,  in  a  different  environ 
ment  and  at  another  phase  of  their  development,  it  turns 
them,  whilst  still  plastic,  in  other  directions.  Human 
nature  is  still  plastic,  especially  in  the  region  of  emotion, 
as  is  proved  by  the  ever-changing  forms  of  religion  and 
art ;  and  it  is  not  a  question  of  right  and  wrong,  nor  even, 
except  in  extreme  cases,  of  health  and  disease,  but  only 


a  question  of  alternative  development,  whether  the  human 
capacity  to  love  is  absorbed  in  the  family  cycle,  or  extends 
to  individual  friendships,  or  to  communion  with  nature 
or  with  God.  The  love  of  friends  in  youth,  in  the  cases 
where  it  is  love  rather  than  friendship,  has  a  mystical 
tendency.  In  character,  though  seldom  in  intensity,  it 
resembles  the  dart  which,  in  an  ecstatic  vision,  pierced  the 
heart  of  Saint  Theresa,  bursting  the  normal  integument 
by  which  the  blood  is  kept  coursing  through  generation 
after  generation,  in  the  closed  channel  of  human  existence 
and  human  slavery.  Love  then  escapes  from  that  round  ; 
it  is,  in  one  sense,  wasted  and  sterilized  ;  but  in  being 
diverted  from  its  earthly  labours  it  suffuses  the  whole 
universe  with  light ;  it  casts  its  glowing  colours  on  the 
sunset,  upon  the  altar,  upon  the  past,  upon  the  truth. 
The  anguished  futility  of  love  corrects  its  own  selfishness, 
its  own  illusion ;  gradually  the  whole  world  becomes 
beautiful  in  its  inhuman  immensity ;  our  very  defeats 
are  transfigured,  and  we  see  that  it  was  good  for  us  to  have 
gone  up  into  that  mountain. 

That  such  mystic  emotions,  whether  in  religion  or  in 
friendship,  are  erotic  was  well  known  before  the  days  of 
Freud.  They  have  always  expressed  themselves  in  erotic 
language.  And  why  should  they  not  be  erotic  ?  Sexual 
passion  is  itself  an  incident  in  the  life  of  the  Psyche,  a 
transitive  phase  in  the  great  cycle  by  which  life  on  earth 
is  kept  going.  It  grows  insensibly  out  of  bodily  self-love, 
childish  play,  and  love  of  sensation  ;  it  merges  in  the  end, 
after  its  midsummer  night's  dream,  into  parental  and 
kingly  purposes.  How  casual,  how  comic,  the  purely 
erotic  impulse  is,  and  how  lightly  nature  plays  with  it, 
may  be  seen  in  the  passion  of  jealousy.  Jealousy  is  in 
separable  from  sexual  love,  and  yet  jealousy  is  not  itself 
erotic  either  in  quality  or  in  effect,  since  it  poisons  pleasure, 
turns  sympathy  into  suspicion,  love  into  hate,  all  in  the 
interests  of  proprietorship.  Why  should  we  be  jealous, 
if  we  were  simply  merry  ?  Nature  weaves  with  a  wide 
loom,  and  crosses  the  threads  ;  and  erotic  passion  may  be 
as  easily  provoked  peripherally  by  deeper  impulses  as  be 
itself  the  root  of  other  propensities.  Lovers  sometimes 
pretend  at  first  to  be  only  friends,  and  friends  have  some- 


times  fancied,  at  first  blush,  that  they  were  lovers  ;  it  is 
as  easy  for  one  habit  or  sentiment  as  for  the  other  to  prove 
the  radical  one,  and  to  prevail  in  the  end.  As  for  English 
men,  the  last  thing  they  would  do  would  be  to  disguise 
some  base  prompting  in  high-flown  language ;  they  would 
call  a  spade  a  spade,  if  there  were  occasion.  They  are 
shy  of  words,  as  of  all  manifestations  ;  and  this  very 
shyness,  if  it  proves  that  there  is  at  bottom  a  vital  instinct 
concerned,  also  proves  that  it  is  not  intrinsically  more 
erotic  than  social,  nor  more  social  than  intellectual.  It 
is  each  of  these  things  potentially,  for  such  faculties  are 
not  divided  in  nature  as  they  are  in  language  ;  it  may  turn 
into  any  one  of  them  if  accident  leads  it  that  way ;  but  it 
reverts  from  every  casual  expression  to  its  central  seat, 
which  is  the  felt  harmony  of  life  with  life,  and  of  life  with 
nature,  with  everything  that  in  the  pulses  of  this  world 
beats  our  own  measure,  and  swells  the  music  of  our 

f  • 


IF  Christendom  should  lose  everything  that  is  now  in  the 
melting-pot,  human  life  would  still  remain  amiable  and 
quite  adequately  human.  I  draw  this  comforting  assurance 
from  the  pages  of  Dickens.  Who  could  not  be  happy  in 
his  world  ?  Yet  there  is  nothing  essential  to  it  which 
the  most  destructive  revolution  would  be  able  to  destroy. 
People  would  still  be  as  different,  as  absurd,  and  as  charm 
ing  as  are  his  characters  ;  the  springs  of  kindness  and  folly 
in  their  lives  would  not  be  dried  up.  Indeed,  there  is 
much  in  Dickens  which  communism,  if  it  came,  would 
only  emphasize  and  render  universal.  Those  schools, 
those  poorhouses,  those  prisons,  with  those  surviving 
shreds  of  family  life  in  them,  show  us  what  in  the  coming 
age  (with  some  sanitary  improvements)  would  be  the 
nursery  and  home  of  everybody.  Everybody  would  be  a 
waif,  like  Oliver  Twist,  like  Smike,  like  Pip,  and  like  David 
Copperfield  ;  and  amongst  the  agents  and  underlings  of 
social  government,  to  whom  all  these  waifs  would  be 


entrusted,  there  would  surely  be  a  goodly  sprinkling  of 
Pecksniffs,  Squeers's,  and  Fangs ;  whilst  the  Fagins 
would  be  everywhere  commissioners  of  the  people.  Nor 
would  there  fail  to  be,  in  high  places  and  in  low,  the 
occasional  sparkle  of  some  Pickwick  or  Cheeryble  Brothers 
or  Sam  Weller  or  Mark  Tapley  ;  and  the  voluble  Flora 
Finchings  would  be  everywhere  in  evidence,  and  the 
strong-minded  Betsey  Trotwoods  in  office.  There  would 
also  be,  among  the  inefficient,  many  a  Dora  and  Agnes  and 
Little  Emily — with  her  charm  but  without  her  tragedy, 
since  this  is  one  of  the  things  which  the  promised  social 
reform  would  happily  render  impossible ;  I  mean,  by 
removing  all  the  disgrace  of  it.  The  only  element  in  the 
world  of  Dickens  which  would  become  obsolete  would  be 
the  setting,  the  atmosphere  of  material  instrumentalities 
and  arrangements,  as  travelling  by  coach  is  obsolete  ; 
but  travelling  by  rail,  by  motor,  or  by  airship  will  emotion 
ally  be  much  the  same  thing.  It  is  worth  noting  how  such 
instrumentalities,  which  absorb  modern  life,  are  admired 
and  enjoyed  by  Dickens,  as  they  were  by  Homer.  The 
poets  ought  not  to  be  afraid  of  them  ;  they  exercise  the 
mind  congenially,  and  can  be  played  with  joyfully.  Con 
sider  the  black  ships  and  the  chariots  of  Homer,  the  coaches 
and  river-boats  of  Dickens,  and  the  aeroplanes  of  to-day  ; 
to  what  would  an  unspoiled  young  mind  turn  with  more 
interest  ?  Dickens  tells  us  little  of  English  sports,  but  he 
shares  the  sporting  nature  of  the  Englishman,  to  whom 
the  whole  material  world  is  a  playing-field,  the  scene 
giving  ample  scope  to  his  love  of  action,  legality,  and 
pleasant  achievement.  His  art  is  to  sport  according  to  the 
rules  of  the  game,  and  to  do  things  for  the  sake  of  doing 
them,  rather  than  for  any  ulterior  motive. 

It   is   remarkable,   in   spite    of   his   ardent    simplicity  , 
and  openness   of  heart,  how  insensible  Dickens  was   to/ 
the  greater  themes  of  the  human  imagination — religion, ' 
science,  politics,  art.     He  was  a  waif  himself,  and  utterly 
disinherited.     For  example,  the  terrible  heritage  of  conten 
tious  religions  which  fills  the  world  seems  not  to  exist  for 
him.     In  this  matter  he  was  like  a  sensitive  child,  with  a 
most  religious  disposition,  but  no  religious  ideas.     Perhaps, 
properly  speaking,  he  had  no  ideas  on  any  subject ;  what 



he  had  was  a  vast  sympathetic  participation  in  the  daily 
life  of  mankind  ;  and  what  he  saw  of  ancient  institutions 
made  him  hate  them,  as  needless  sources  of  oppression, 
misery,  selfishness,  and  rancour.  His  one  political  passion 
was  philanthropy,  genuine  but  felt  only  on  its  negative, 
reforming  side  ;  of  positive  Utopias  or  enthusiasms  we 
hear  nothing.  The  political  background  of  Christendom  is 
only,  so  to  speak,  an  old  faded  back-drop  for  his  stage  ; 
a  castle,  a  frigate,  a  gallows,  and  a  large  female  angel  with 
white  wings  standing  above  an  orphan  by  an  open  grave 
— a  decoration  which  has  to  serve  for  all  the  melodramas 
in  his  theatre,  intellectually  so  provincial  and  poor. 
Common  life  as  it  is  lived  was  varied  and  lovable  enough 
for  Dickens,  if  only  the  pests  and  cruelties  could  be 
removed  from  it.  Suffering  wounded  him,  but  not  vul 
garity  ;  whatever  pleased  his  senses  and  whatever  shocked 
them  filled  his  mind  alike  with  romantic  wonder,  with  the 
endless  delight  of  observation.  Vulgarity — and  what  can 
we  relish,  if  we  recoil  at  vulgarity  ? — was  innocent  and 
amusing ;  in  fact,  for  the  humorist,  it  was  the  spice  of 
life.  There  was  more  piety  in  being  human  than  in  being 
pious.  In  reviving  Christmas,  Dickens  transformed  it 
from  the  celebration  of  a  metaphysical  mystery  into  a 
feast  of  overflowing  simple  kindness  and  good  cheer ;  the 
church  bells  were  still  there — in  the  orchestra ;  and  the 
angels  of  Bethlehem  were  still  there — painted  on  the 
back-curtain.  Churches,  in  his  novels,  are  vague,  desolate 
places  where  one  has  ghastly  experiences,  and  where  only 
the  pew-opener  is  human  ;  and  such  religious  and  political 
conflicts  as  he  depicts  in  Barnaby  Rudge  and  in  A  Tale  of 
Two  Cities  are  street  brawls  and  prison  scenes  and  con 
spiracies  in  taverns,  without  any  indication  of  the  contrasts 
in  mind  or  interests  between  the  opposed  parties.  Nor 
had  Dickens  any  lively  sense  for  fine  art,  classical  tradition, 
science,  or  even  the  manners  and  feelings  of  the  upper 
classes  in  his  own  time  and  country  :  in  his  novels  we  may 
almost  say  there  is  no  army,  no  navy,  no  church,  no  sport, 
no  distant  travel,  no  daring  adventure,  no  feeling  for  the 
watery  wastes  and  the  motley  nations  of  the  planet,  and 
— luckily,  with  his  notion  of  them — no  lords  and  ladies. 
Even  love  of  the  traditional  sort  is  hardly  in  Dickens's 


sphere — I  mean  the  soldierly  passion  in  which  a  rather 
rakish  gallantry  was  sobered  by  devotion,  and  loyalty 
rested  on  pride.  In  Dickens  love  is  sentimental  or 
benevolent  or  merry  or  sneaking  or  canine  ;  in  his  last 
book  he  was  going  to  describe  a  love  that  was  passionate 
and  criminal ;  but  love  for  him  was  never  chivalrous, 
never  poetical.  What  he  paints  most  tragically  is  a 
quasi-paternal  devotion  in  the  old  to  the  young,  the  love 
of  Mr.  Peggotty  for  Little  Emily,  or  of  Solomon 'Gills  for 
Walter  Gay.  A  series  of  shabby  little  adventures,  such  as 
might  absorb  the  interest  of  an  average  youth,  were 
romantic  enough  for  Dickens. 

I  say  he  was  disinherited,  but  he  inherited  the  most 
terrible  negations.  Religion  lay  on  him  like  the  weight 
of  the  atmosphere,  sixteen  pounds  to  the  square  inch,  yet 
never  noticed  nor  mentioned.  He  lived  and  wrote  in 
the  shadow  of  the  most  awful  prohibitions.  Hearts  petri 
fied  by  legality  and  falsified  by  worldliness  offered,  indeed, 
a  good  subject  for  a  novelist,  and  Dickens  availed  himself 
of  it  to  the  extent  of  always  contrasting  natural  goodness 
and  happiness  with  whatever  is  morose  ;  but  his  morose 
people  were  wicked,  not  virtuous  in  their  own  way  ;  so 
that  the  protest  of  his  temperament  against  his  environ 
ment  never  took  a  radical  form  nor  went  back  to  first 
principles.  He  needed  to  feel,  in  his  writing,  that  he 
was  carrying  the  sympathies  of  every  man  with  him. 
In  him  conscience  was  single,  and  he  could  not  conceive 
how  it  could  ever  be  divided  in  other  men.  He  denounced  j 
scandals  without  exposing  shams,  and  conformed  willingly  « 
and  scrupulously  to  the  proprieties.  Lady  Dedlock's  \ 
secret,  for  instance,  he  treats  as  if  it  were  the  sin  of  Adam, 
remote,  mysterious,  inexpiable.  Mrs.  Dombey  is  not 
allowed  to  deceive  her  husband  except  by  pretending  to 
deceive  him.  The  seduction  of  Little  Emily  is  left  out 
altogether,  with  the  whole  character  of  Steerforth,  the 
development  of  which  would  have  been  so  important  in 
the  moral  experience  of  David  Copperfield  himself.  \But  it 
is  not  public  prejudice  alone  that  plays  the  censor  over 
Dickens's  art ;  his  own  kindness  and  even  weakness  of 
heart  act  sometimes  as  marplotsA  The  character  of  Miss 
Mowcher,  for  example,  so  brilliantly  introduced,  was 


evidently  intended  to  be  shady,  and  to  play  a  very  im 
portant  part  in  the  story ;  but  its  original  in  real  life, 
which  was  recognized,  had  to  be  conciliated,  and  the 
sequel  was  omitted  and  patched  up  with  an  apology — 
itself  admirable — for  the  poor  dwarf.  Such  a  sacrifice 
does  honour  to  Dickens's  heart ;  but  artists  should  meditate 
on  their  works  in  time,  and  it  is  easy  to  remove  any  too 
great  likeness  in  a  portrait  by  a  few  touches  making  it  more 
consistent  than  real  people  are  apt  to  be  ;  and  in  this  case, 
if  the  little  creature  had  been  really  guilty,  how  much  more 
subtle  and  tragic  her  apology  for  herself  might  have  been, 
like  that  of  the  bastard  Edmund  in  King  Lear  \  So,  too,  in 
Dombey  and  Son,  Dickens  could  not  bear  to  let  Walter 
Gay  turn  out  badly,  as  he  had  been  meant  to  do,  and  to 
break  his  uncle's  heart  as  well  as  the  heroine's  ;  he  was 
accordingly  transformed  into  a  stage  hero  miraculously 
saved  from  shipwreck,  and  Florence  was  not  allowed  to 
reward  the  admirable  Toots,  as  she  should  have  done, 
with  her  trembling  hand.  (But  Dickens  was  no  free  artist ; 
he  had  more  genius  than  taste,  a  warm  fancy  not  aided  by 
a  thorough  understanding  of  complex  characters.  He 
worked  under  pressure,  for  money  and  applause,  and  often 
had  to  cheapen  in  execution  what  his  inspiration  had  so 
vividly  conceived/ 

What,  then,  is  there  left,  if  Dickens  has  all  these  limita 
tions  ?  In  our  romantic  disgust  we  might  be  tempted"  to- 
say,  Nothing.  But  in  fact  almost  everything  is  left,  almost 
everything  that  counts  in  the  daily  life  of  mankind,  or  that 
by  its  presence  or  absence  can  determine  whether  life 
shall  be  worth  living  or  not ;  because  a  simple  good  life  is 
worth  living,  and  an  elaborate  bad  life  is  not.  There 
remains  in  the  first  place  eating  and  drinking  ;  relished 
not  bestially,  but  humanly,  jovially,  as  the  sane  and 
exhilarating  basis  for  everything  else.  This  is  a  sound 
English  beginning ;  but  the  immediate  sequel,  as  the 
England  of  that  day  presented  it  to  Dickens,  is  no  less 
delightful.  There  is  the  ruddy  glow  of  the  hearth  ;  the 
sparkle  of  glasses  and  brasses  and  well-scrubbed  pewter  ; 
the  savoury  fumes  of  the  hot  punch,  after  the  tingle  of  the 
wintry  air ;  the  coaching-scenes,  the  motley  figures  and 
absurd  incidents  of  travel ;  the  changing  sights  and  joys 


of  the  road.  And  then,  to  balance  this,  the  traffic  of 
ports  and  cities,  the  hubbub  of  crowded  streets,  the  luxury 
of  shop-windows  and  of  palaces  not  to  be  entered  ;  the 
procession  of  the  passers-by,  shabby  or  ludicrously  genteel ; 
the  dingy  look  and  musty  smell  of  their  lodgings  ;  the 
labyrinth  of  back-alleys,  courts,  and  mews,  with  their 
crying  children,  and  scolding  old  women,  and  listless, 
half-drunken  loiterers.  These  sights,  like  fables,  have  a 
sort  of  moral  in  them  to  which  Dickens  was  very  sensitive  ; 
the  important  airs  of  nobodies  on  great  occasions,  the 
sadness  and  preoccupation  of  the  great  as  they  hasten  by 
in  their  mourning  or  on  their  pressing  affairs  ;  the  sadly 
comic  characters  of  the  tavern  ;  the  diligence  of  shop 
keepers,  like  squirrels  turning  in  their  cages  ;  the  children 
peeping  out  everywhere  like  grass  in  an  untrodden  street ; 
the  charm  of  humble  things,  the  nobleness  of  humble 
people,  the  horror  of  crime,  the  ghastliness  of  vice,  the 
deft  hand  and  shining  face  of  virtue  passing  through  the 
midst  of  it  all ;  and  finally  a  fresh  wind  of  indifference 
and  change  blowing  across  our  troubles  and  clearing  the 
most  lurid  sky. 

I  do  not  know  whether  it  was  Christian  charity  or 
naturalistic  insight,  or  a  mixture  of  both  (for  they  ara     \ 
closely  akin)   that  attracted  Dickens  particularly  to  the  *    I 
deformed,  the  half-witted,  the  abandoned,  or  those  impeded 
or  misunderstood  by  virtue  of  some  singular  inner  consecra 
tion.     The   visible   moral   of   these   things,   when   brutal 
prejudice  does  not  blind  us  to  it,  comes  very  near  to  true 
philosophy ;   one  turn  of  the  screw,  one  flash  of  reflection, 
and  we  have  understood  nature  and  human  morality  and 
the  relation  between  them. 

In  his  love  of  roads  and  wayfarers,  of  river-ports  and 
wharves  and  the  idle  or  sinister  figures  that  lounge  about 
them,  Dickens  was  like  Walt  Whitman  ;  and  I  think  a 
second  Dickens  may  any  day  appear  in  America,  when  it 
is  possible  in  that  land  of  hurry  to  reach  the  same  degree 
of  saturation,  the  same  unquestioning  pleasure  in  the 
familiar  facts.  The  spirit  of  Dickens  would  be  better  able 
to  do  justice  to  America  than  was  that  of  Walt  Whitman  ; 
because  America,  although  it  may  seem  nothing  but  a 
noisy  nebula  to  the  impressionist,  is  not  a  nebula  but  a 


concourse  of  very  distinct  individual  bodies,  natural  and 
social,  each  with  its  definite  interests  and  story.  Walt 
Whitman  had  a  sort  of  transcendental  philosophy  which 
swallowed  the  universe  whole,  supposing  there  was  a 
universal  spirit  in  things  identical  with  the  absolute  spirit 
that  observed  them  ;  but  Dickens  was  innocent  of  any 
such  clap -trap,  and  remained  a  true  spirit  in  his  own 
person.  Kindly  and  clear-sighted,  but  self-identical  and 
unequivocally  human,  he  glided  through  the  slums  like 
one  of  his  own  little  heroes,  uncontaminated  by  their 
squalor  and  confusion,  courageous  and  firm  in  his  clear 
allegiances  amid  the  flux  of  things,  a  pale  angel  at  the 
Carnival,  his  heart  aflame^  his  voice  always  flute-like  in 
its  tenderness  and  warning^  This  is  the  true  relation  of 
spirit  to  existence,  not  the  other  which  confuses  them  ; 
for  this  earth  (I  cannot  speak  for  the  universe  at  large) 
has  no  spirit  of  its  own,  but  brings  forth  spirits  only  at 
certain  points,  in  the  hearts  and  brains  of  frail  living 
creatures,  who  like  insects  flit  through  it,  buzzing  and 
gathering  what  sweets  they  can  ;  and  it  is  the  spaces  they 
traverse  in  this  career,  charged  with  their  own  moral 
burden,  that  they  can  report  on  or  describe,  not  things 
rolling  on  to  infinity  in  their  vain  tides.  To  be  hypnotized 
by  that  flood  would  be  a  heathen  idolatry.  Accordingly 
Walt  Whitman,  in  his  comprehensive  democratic  vistas, 
could  never  see  the  trees  for  the  wood,  and  remained 
incapable,  for  all  his  diffuse  love  of  the  human  herd,  of 
ever  painting  a  character  or  telling  a  story  ;  the  very 
things  in  which  Dickens  was  a  master.  It  is  this  life  of 
the  individual,  as  it  may  be  lived  in  a  given  nation,  that 
determines  the  whole  value  of  that  nation  to  the  poet,  to 
the  moralist,  and  to  the  judicious  historian.  But  for  the 
excellence  of  the  typical  single  life,  no  nation  deserves  to 
be  remembered  more  than  the  sands  of  the  sea ;  and 
America  will  not  be  a  success,  if  every  American  is  a 

Dickens  entered  the  theatre  of  this  world  by  the  stage 
door  ;  the  shabby  little  adventures  of  the  actors  in  their 
private  capacity  replace  for  him  the  mock  tragedies  which 
they  enact  before  a  dreaming  public.  Mediocrity  of  circum 
stances  and  mediocrity  of  soul  for  ever  return  to  the  centre 

\.    stanc 


of  his  stage ;  a  more  wretched  or  a  grander  existence  is 
sometimes  broached,  but  the  pendulum  soon  swings  back, 
and  we  return,  with  the  relief  with  which  we  put  on  our 
slippers  after  the  most  romantic  excursion,  to  a  golden 
mediocrity — to  mutton  and  beer,  and  to  love  and  babies 
in  a  suburban  villa  with  one  frowsy  maid.  Dickens-is^lEe 
poet  of  those  acres  of  yellow-brick-streets*  which  the  traveller 
sees  from  the  railway  viaducts  as  he  approaches  London  ; 
they  need  a  poet,  and  they  deserve  one,  since  a  complete 
human  life  may  very  well  be  lived  there.  Their  little 
excitements  and  sorrows,  their  hopes  and  humours  are 
like  those  of  the  Wooden  Midshipman  in  Dombey  and 
Son;  but  the  sea  is  not  far  off,  and  the  sky — Dickens 
never  forgets  it — is  above  all  those  brief  troubles.  He 
had  a  sentiment  in  the  presence  of  this  vast  flatness  of 
human  fates,  in  spite  of  their  individual  pungency,  which 
I  think  might  well  be  the  dominant  sentiment  of  mankind 
in  the  future  ;  a  sense  of  happy  freedom  in  littleness,  an 
open-eyed  reverence  and  religion  without  words.  This 
universal  human  anonymity  is  like  a  sea,  an  infinitive 
democratic  desert,  chock-full  and  yet  the  very  image  of 
emptiness,  with  nothing  in  it  for  the  mind,  except,  as  the 
Moslems  say,  the  presence  of  Allah.  Awe  is  the  counterpart 
of  humility — and  this  is  perhaps  religion  enough.  The  atom 
in  the  universal  vortex  ought  to  be  humble  ;  he  ought  to 
see  that,  materially,  he  doesn't  much  matter,  and  that 
morally  his  loves  are  merely  his  own,  without  authority 
over  the  universe.  He  can  admit  without  obloquy  that 
he  is  what  he  is  ;  and  he  can  rejoice  in  his  own  being, 
and  in  that  of  all  other  things  in  so  far  as  he  can  share  it 
sympathetically.  The  apportionment  of  existence  and  of 
fortune  is  in  Other  Hands  ;  his  own  portion  is  contentment, 
vision,  love,  and  laughter. 

^Having  humility,  that  most  liberating  of  sentiments, 
having  a  true" vision  of  human  existence  and  joy  in  that 
vision,  Dickens  had  in  a  superlative  degree  the  gift  of 
humour,  of  mimicry,  of  unrestrained  farce.  -,  He  was  the 
perfect  comedian.  When  people  say  Dickens  exaggerates, 
it  seems  to  me  they  can  have  no  eyes  and  no  ears.  They 
probably  have  only  notions  of  what  things  and  people  are  ; 
they  accept  them  conventionally,  at  their  diplomatic  value. 



Their  minds  run  on  in  the  region  of  discourse,  where  there 
are  masks  only  and  no  faces,  ideas  and  no  facts  ;  they  have 
little  sense  for  those  living  grimaces  that  play  from  moment 
to  moment  upon  the  countenance  of  the  world.  The  world 
is  a  perpetual  caricature  of  itself ;  at  every  moment  it  is 
the  mockery  and  the  contradiction  of  what  it  is  pretending 
to  be.  But  as  it  nevertheless  intends  all  the  time  to  be 
something  different  and  highly  dignified,  at  the  next 
moment  it  corrects  and  checks  and  tries  to  cover  up  the 
absurd  thing  it  was  ;  so  that  a  conventional  world,  a  world 
of  masks,  is  superimposed  on  the  reality,  and  passes  in 
every  sphere  of  human  interest  for  the  reality  itself. 
Humour  is  the  perception  of  this  illusion,  the  fact  allowed 
to  pierce  here  and  there  through  the  convention,  whilst 
the  convention  continues  to  be  maintained,  as  if  we  had 
not  observed  its  absurdity.  Pure  comedy  is  more  radical, 
cruder,  in  a  certain  sense  less  human  ;  because  comedy 
throws  the  convention  over  altogether,  revels  for  a  moment 
in  the  fact,  and  brutally  says  to  the  notions  of  mankind, 
as  if  it  slapped  them  in  the  face,  There,  take  that !  That's 
what  you  really  are  !  At  this  the  polite  world  pretends  to 
laugh,  not  tolerantly  as  it  does  at  humour,  but  a  little 
angrily.  It  does  not  like  to  see  itself  by  chance  in  the 
glass,  without  having  had  time  to  compose  its  features 
for  demure  self -contemplation.  "  What  a  bad  mirror,"  it 
exclaims  ;  "it  must  be  concave  or  convex ;  for  surely  I 
never  looked  like  that.  Mere  caricature,  farce,  and  horse 
play.  Dickens  exaggerates  ;  I  never  was  so  sentimental  as 
that ;  /  never  saw  anything  so  dreadful ;  /  don't  believe 
there  were  ever  any  people  like  Quilp,  or  Squeers,  or 
Serjeant  Buzfuz."  But  the  polite  world  is  lying ;  there 
are  such  people  ;  we  are  such  people  ourselves  in  our  true 
moments,  in  our  veritable  impulses  ;  but  we  are  careful  to 
stifle  and  to  hide  those  moments  from  ourselves  and  from 
the  world ;  to  purse  and  pucker  ourselves  into  the  mask 
of  our  conventional  personality ;  and  so  simpering,  we 
profess  that  it  is  very  coarse  and  inartistic  of  Dickens  to 
undo  our  life's  work  for  us  in  an  instant,  and  remind  us 
of  what  we  are.  And  as  to  other  people,  though  we  may 
allow  that  considered  superficially  they  are  often  absurd, 
we  do  not  wish  to  dwell  on  their  eccentricities,  nor  to  mimic 


them.  On  the  contrary,  it  is  good  manners  to  look  away 
quickly,  to  suppress  a  smile,  and  to  say  to  ourselves  that 
the  ludicrous  figure  in  the  street  is  not  at  all  comic,  but  a 
dull  ordinary  Christian,  and  that  it  is  foolish  to  give  any 
importance  to  the  fact  that  its  hat  has  blown  off,  that  it 
has  slipped  on  an  orange-peel  and  unintentionally  sat  on 
the  pavement,  that  it  has  a  pimple  on  its  nose,  that  its 
one  tooth  projects  over  its  lower  lip,  that  it  is  angry  with 
things  in  general,  and  that  it  is  looking  everywhere  for  the 
penny  which  it  holds  tightly  in  its  hand.  That  may  fairly 
represent  the  moral  condition  of  most  of  us  at  most  times  ; 
but  we  do  not  want  to  think  of  it ;  we  do  not  want  to  see  ; 
we  gloss  the  fact  over ;  we  console  ourselves  before  we 
are  grieved,  and  reassert  our  composure  before  we  have 
laughed.  We  are  afraid,  ashamed,  anxious  to  be  spared. 
What  displeases  us  in  Dickens  is  that  he  does  not  spare 
us  ;  he  mimics  things  to  the  full ;  he  dilates  and  exhausts 
and  repeats  ;  he  wallows.  He  is  too  intent  on  the  passing 
experience  to  look  over  his  shoulder,  and  consider  whether 
we  have  not  already  understood,  and  had  enough.  He  is 
not  thinking  of  us  ;  he  is  obeying  the  impulse  of  the  passion, 
the  person,  or  the  story  he  is  enacting.  This  faculty,  which 
renders  him  a  consummate  comedian,  is  just  what  alienated 
from  him  a  later  generation  in  which  people  of  taste  were 
aesthetes  and  virtuous  people  were  higher  snobs ;  they 
wanted  a  mincing  art,  and  he  gave  them  copious  improviza- 
tion,  they  wanted  analysis  and  development,  and  he  gave 
them  absolute  comedy.  I  must  confess,  though  the  fault  is 
mine  and  not  his,  that  sometimes  his  absoluteness  is  too 
much  for  me.  When  I  come  to  the  death  of  Xittfe  Nell, 
or  to  What  the  Waves  were  always  Saying,  or  even  to  the 
incorrigible  perversities  of  the  pretty  Dora,  I  skip.  I  can't 
take  my  liquor  neat  in  such  draughts,  and  my  inner  man 
says  to  Dickens,  Please  don't.  But  then  I  am  a  coward 
in  so  many  ways  !  There  are  so  many  things  in  this  world 
that  I  skip,  as  I  skip  the  undiluted  Dickens  !  When  I 
reach  Dover  on  a  rough  day,  I  wait  there  until  the  Channel 
is  smoother ;  am  I  not  travelling  for  pleasure  ?  But  my 
prudence  does  not  blind  me  to  the  admirable  virtue  of  the 
sailors  that  cross  in  all  weathers,  nor  even  to  the  automatic 
determination  of  the  sea-sick  ladies,  who  might  so  easily 


have  followed  my  example,  if  they  were  not  the  slaves  of 
their  railway  tickets  and  of  their  labelled  luggage.  They 
are  loyal  to  their  tour,  and  I  to  my  philosophy.  Yet  as 
wrapped  in  my  great-coat  and  sure  of  a  good  dinner,  I 
pace  the  windy  pier  and  soliloquize,  I  feel  the  superiority 
of  the  bluff  tar,  glad  of  breeze,  stretching  a  firm  arm  to  the 
unsteady  passenger,  and  watching  with  a  masterful  thrill 
of  emotion  the  home  cliffs  receding  and  the  foreign  coasts 
ahead.  It  is  only  courage  (which  Dickens  had  without 
knowing  it)  and  universal  kindness  (which  he  knew  he  had) 
that  are  requisite  to  nerve  us  for  a  true  vision  of  this  world. 
And  as  some  of  us  are  cowards  about  crossing  the  Channel, 
and  others  about  "  crossing  the  bar,"  so  almost  everybody 
is  a  coward  about  his  own  humanity.  We  do  not  consent 
to  be  absurd,  though  absurd  we  are.  We  have  no  funda 
mental  humility.  We  do  not  wish  the  moments  of  our 
lives  to  be  caught  by  a  quick  eye  in  their  grotesque  initia 
tive,  and  to  be  pilloried  in  this  way  before  our  own  eyes. 
For  that  reason  we  don't  like  Dickens,  and  don't  like  comedy, 
and  don't  like  the  truth.  Dickens  could  don  the  comic 
mask  with  innocent  courage  ;  he  could  wear  it  with  a 
grace,  ease,  and  irresistible  vivacity  seldom  given  to  men. 
We  must  go  back  for  anything  like  it  to  the  very  greatest 
comic  poets,  to  Shakespeare  or  to  Aristophanes.  Who  else, 
for  instance,  could  have  penned  this  : 

"  It  was  all  Mrs.  Bumble.  She  would  do  it,"  urged  Mr. 
Bumble  ;  first  looking  round  to  ascertain  that  his  partner 
had  left  the  room. 

"  That  is  no  excuse,"  replied  Mr.  Brownlow.  "  You  were 
present  on  the  occasion  of  the  destruction  of  these  trinkets, 
and  indeed  are  the  more  guilty  of  the  two,  in  the  eye  of  the 
law  ;  for  the  law  supposes  that  your  wife  acts  under  your 

"  If  the  law  supposes  that,"  said  Mr.  Bumble,  squeezing 
his  hat  emphatically  in  both  hands,  "  the  law  is  a  ass,  a  idiot. 
If  that's  the  eye  of  the  law,  the  law  is  a  bachelor  ;  and  the 
worst  I  wish  the  law  is,  that  his  eye  may  be  opened  by 
experience — by  experience." 

Laying  great  stress  on  the  repetition  of  these  two  words, 
Mr.  Bumble  fixed  his  hat  on  very  tight,  and  putting  his  hands 
in  his  pockets,  followed  his  helpmate  downstairs. 


This  is  high  comedy ;  the  irresistible,  absurd,  intense 
dream  of  the  old  fool,  personifying  the  law  in  order  to 
convince  and  to  punish  it.  I  can  understand  that  this  sort 
of  thing  should  not  be  common  in  English  literature,  nor 
much  relished  ;  because  pure  comedy  is  scornful,  merciless, 
devastating,  holding  no  door  open  to  anything  beyond. 
Cultivated  English  feeling  winces  at  this  brutality,  although 
the  common  people  love  it  in  clowns  and  in  puppet  shows  ; 
and  I  think  they  are  right.  Dickens,  who  surely  was 
tender  enough,  had  so  irresistible  a  comic  genius  that  it 
carried  him  beyond  the  gentle  humour  which  most  English 
men  possess  to  the  absolute  grotesque  reality.  Squeers, 
for  instance,  when  he  sips  the  wretched  dilution  which  he 
has  prepared  for  his  starved  and  shivering  little  pupils, 
smacks  his  lips  and  cries  :  "  Here's  richness  I  "  It  is 
savage  comedy  ;  humour  would  come  in  if  we  understood 
(what  Dickens  does  not  tell  us)  that  the  little  creatures 
were  duly  impressed  and  thought  the  thin  liquid  truly 
delicious.  I  suspect  that  English  sensibility  prefers  the 
humour  and  wit  of  Hamlet  to  the  pure  comedy  of  Falstaff ; 
and  that  even  in  Aristophanes  it  seeks  consolation  in  the 
lyrical  poetry  for  the  flaying  of  human  life  in  the  comedy 
itself.  Tastes  are  free ;  but  we  should  not  deny  that 
in  merciless  and  rollicking  comedy  life  is  caught  in  the 
act.  The  most  grotesque  creatures  of  Dickens  are  not 
exaggerations  or  mockeries  of  something  other  than  them 
selves  ;  they  arise  because  nature  generates  them,  like 
toadstools  ;  they  exist  because  they  can't  help  it,  as  we 
all  do.  The  fact  that  these  perfectly  self -justified  beings 
are  absurd  appears  only  by  comparison,  and  from  outside  ; 
circumstances,  or  the  expectations  of  other  people,  make 
them  ridiculous  and  force  them  to  contradict  themselves  ; 
but  in  nature  it  is  no  crime  to  be  exceptional.  Often,  but 
for  the  savagery  of  the  average  man,  it  would  not  even  be 
a  misfortune.  The  sleepy  fat  boy  in  Pickwick  looks  foolish  ; 
but  in  himself  he  is  no  more  foolish,  nor  less  solidly  self- 
justified,  than  a  pumpkin  lying  on  the  ground.  Toots 
seems  ridiculous  ;  and  we  laugh  heartily  at  his  incoherence, 
his  beautiful  waistcoats,  and  his  extreme  modesty ;  but 
when  did  anybody  more  obviously  grow  into  what  he  is 
because  he  couldn't  grow  otherwise  ?  So  with  Mr.  Pickwick, 


and  Sam  Weller,  and  Mrs.  Gamp,  and  Micawber,  and  all 
the  rest  of  this  wonderful  gallery  ;  they  are  ridiculous  only 
by  accident,  and  in  a  context  in  which  they  never  intended 
to  appear.  If  Oedipus  and  Lear  and  Cleopatra  do  not  seem 
ridiculous,  it  is  only  because  tragic  reflection  has  taken 
them  out  of  the  context  in  which,  in  real  life,  they  would 
have  figured.  If  we  saw  them  as  facts,  and  not  as 
emanations  of  a  poet's  dream,  we  should  laugh  at  them 
till  doomsday ;  what  grotesque  presumption,  what  silly 
whims,  what  mad  contradiction  of  the  simplest  realities  ! 
Yet  we  should  not  laugh  at  them  without  feeling  how  real 
their  griefs  were  ;  as  real  and  terrible  as  the  griefs  of 
children  and  of  dreams.  But  facts,  however  serious 
inwardly,  are  always  absurd  outwardly  ;  and  the  just 
critic  of  life  sees  both  truths  at  once,  as  Cervantes  did  in 
Don  Quixote.  A  pompous  idealist  who  does  not  see  the 
ridiculous  in  all  things  is  the  dupe  of  his  sympathy  and 
abstraction  ;  and  a  clown,  who  does  not  see  that  these 
ridiculous  creatures  are  living  quite  in  earnest,  is  the  dupe 
of  his  egotism.  Dickens  saw  the  absurdity,  and  understood 
the  life  ;  I  think  he  was  a  good  philosopher. 

It  is  usual  to  compare  Dickens  with  Thackeray,  which 
is  like  comparing  the  grape  with  the  gooseberry  ;  there  are 
obvious  points  of  resemblance,  and  the  gooseberry  has 
some  superior  qualities  of  its  own  ;  but  you  can't  make 
red  wine  of  it.  The  wine  of  Dickens  is  of  the  richest,  the 
purest,  the  sweetest,  the  most  fortifying  to  the  blood  ; 
there  is  distilled  in  it,  with  the  perfection  of  comedy,  the 
perfection  of  morals.  I  do  not  mean,  of  course,  that  Dickens 
appreciated  all  the  values  that  human  life  has  or  might 
have  ;  that  is  beyond  any  man.  Even  the  greatest  philo 
sophers,  such  as  Aristotle,  have  not  always  much  imagina 
tion  to  conceive  forms  of  happiness  or  folly  other  than 
those  which  their  age  or  their  temperament  reveals  to  them  ; 
their  insight  runs  only  to  discovering  the  principle  of 
happiness,  that  it  is  spontaneous  life  of  any  sort  harmonized 
with  circumstances.  The  sympathies  and  imagination  of 
Dickens,  vivid  in  their  sphere,  were  no  less  limited  in  range  ; 
and  of  course  it  was  not  his  business  to  find  philosophic 
formulas  ;  nevertheless  I  call  his  the  perfection  of  morals 
for  two  reasons  :  that  he  put  the  distinction  between  good 


and  evil  in  the  right  place,  and  that  he  felt  this  distinction 
intensely.  A  moralist  might  have  excellent  judgement,  he 
might  see  what  sort  of  life  is  spontaneous  in  a  given  being 
and  how  far  it  may  be  harmonized  with  circumstances,  yet 
his  heart  might  remain  cold,  he  might  not  suffer  nor  rejoice 
with  the  suffering  or  joy  he  foresaw.  Humanitarians  like 
Bentham  and  Mill,  who  talked  about  the  greatest  happiness 
of  the  greatest  number,  might  conceivably  be  moral  prigs 
in  their  own  persons,  and  they  might  have  been  chilled  to 
the  bone  in  their  theoretic  love  of  mankind,  if  they  had 
had  the  wit  to  imagine  in  what,  as  a  matter  of  fact,  the 
majority  would  place  their  happiness.  Even  if  their  theory 
had  been  correct  (which  I  think  it  was  in  intention,  though 
not  in  statement)  they  would  then  not  have  been  perfect 
moralists,  because  their  maxims  would  not  have  expressed 
their  hearts.  In  expressing  their  hearts,  they  ought  to 
have  embraced  one  of  those  forms  of  "  idealism  "  by  which 
men  fortify  themselves  in  their  bitter  passions  or  in  their 
helpless  commitments  ;  for  they  do  not  wish  mankind  to 
be  happy  in  its  own  way,  but  in  theirs.  Dickens  was  not 
one  of  those  moralists  who  summon  every  man  to  do 
himself  the  greatest  violence  so  that  he  may  not  offend 
them,  nor  defeat  their  ideals.  Love  of  the  good  of  others 
is  something  that  shines  in  every  page  of  Dickens  with  a 
truly  celestial  splendour.  How  entirely  limpid  is  his 
sympathy  with  life — a  sympathy  uncontaminated  by 
dogma  or  pedantry  or  snobbery  or  bias  of  any  kind  ! 
How  generous  is  this  keen,  light  spirit,  how  pure  this 
open  heart !  And  yet,  in  spite  of  this  extreme  sensibility, 
not  the  least  wobbling  ;  no  deviation  from  a  just  severity 
of  judgement,  from  an  uncompromising  distinction  between 
white  and  black.  And  this  happens  as  it  ought  to  happen  ; 
sympathy  is  not  checked  by  a  flatly  contrary  prejudice 
or  commandment,  by  some  categorical  imperative  irrelevant 
to  human  nature  ;  the  check,  like  the  cheer,  comes  by 
tracing  the  course  of  spontaneous  impulse  amid  circum 
stances  that  inexorably  lead  it  to  success  or  to  failure. 
There  is  a  bed  to  this  stream,  freely  as  the  water  may  flow  ; 
when  it  comes  to  this  precipice  it  must  leap,  when  it  runs 
over  these  pebbles  it  must  sing,  and  when  it  spreads  into 
that  marsh  it  must  become  livid  and  malarial.  The  very 



sympathy  with  human  impulse  quickens  in  Dickens  the 
sense  of  danger  ;  his  very  joy  in  joy,  makes  him  stern  to 
what  kills  it.  How  admirably  drawn  are  his  surly  villains  ! 
No  rhetorical  vilification  of  them,  as  in  a  sermon  ;  no 
exaggeration  of  their  qualms  or  fears  ;  rather  a  sense  of 
how  obvious  and  human  all  their  courses  seem  from  their 
own  point  of  view ;  and  yet  ho  sentimental  apology  for 
them,  no  romantic  worship  of  rebels  in  their  madness  or 
crime.  The  pity  of  it,  the  waste  of  it  all,  are  seen  not  by 
a  second  vision  but  by  the  same  original  vision  which 
revealed  the  lure  and  the  drift  of  the  passion.  Vice  is  a 
monster  here  of  such  sorry  mien,  that  the  longer  *we  see 
it  the  more  we  deplore  it ;  that  other  sort  of  vice  which 
Pope  found  so  seductive  was  perhaps  only  some  innocent 
impulse  artificially  suppressed,  and  called  a  vice  because 
it  broke  out  inconveniently  and  displeased  the  company. 
True  vice  is  human  nature  strangled  by  the  suicide  of 
attempting  the  impossible.  Those  so  self-justified  villains 
of  Dickens  never  elude  their  fates.  Bill  Sikes  is  not  let 
off,  neither  is  Nancy  ;  the  oddly  benevolent  Magwitch  does 
not  escape  from  the  net,  nor  does  the  unfortunate  young 
Richard  Carstone,  victim  of  the  Circumlocution  Office. 
The  horror  'and  ugliness  of  their  fall  are  rendered  with  the 
hand  of  a  master  ;  we  see  here,  as  in  the  world,  that  in 
spite  of  the  romanticists  it  is  not  virtue  to  rush  enthusiasti 
cally  along  any  road.  I  think  Dickens  is  one  of  the  best 
friends  mankind  has  ever  had.  He  has  held  the  mirror  up 
to  nature,  and  of  its  reflected  fragments  has  composed  a 
fresh  world,  where  the  men  and  women  differ  from  real 
people  only  in  that  they  live  in  a  literary  medium,  so  that 
all  ages  and  places  may  know  them.  And  they  are  worth 
knowing,  just  as  one's  neighbours  are,  for  their  picturesque 
characters  and  their  pathetic  fates.  Their  names  should 
be  in  every  child's  mouth  ;  they  ought  to  be  adopted 
members  of  every  household.  Their  stories  cause  the 
merriest  and  the  sweetest  chimes  to  ring  in  the  fancy, 
without  confusing  our  moral  judgement  or  alienating  our 
interest  from  the  motley  commonplaces  of  daily  life.  In 
every  English-speaking  home,  in  the  four  quarters  of  the 
globe,  parents  and  children  will  do  well  to  read  Dickens 
aloud  of  a  winter's  evening ;  they  will  love  winter,  and 


one  another,  -  and  God  the  better  for  it.  What  a  wreath 
that  will  be  of  ever-fresh  holly,  thick  with  bright  berries,  to 
hang  to  this  poet's  memory — the  very  crown  he  would 
have  chosen  ! 


GREAT  buildings  often  have  great  doors  ;  but  great  doors 
are  heavy  to  swing,  and  if  left  open  they  may  let  in  too 
much  dold  or  glare  ;  so  that  we  sometimes  observe  a  small 
postern  cut  into  one  leaf  of  the  large  door  for  more  con 
venient  entrance  and  exit,  and  it  is  seldom  or  never  that 
the  monumental  gates  yawn  in  their  somnolence.  Here 
is  the  modest  human  scale  reasserting  itself  in  the  midst 
of  a  titanic  structure,  but  it  reasserts  itself  with  an  ill 
grace  and  in  the  interests  of  frailty ;  the  patch  it  makes 
seems  unintended  and  ignominious. 

Yet  the  human  scale  is  not  essentially  petty ;  when 
it  does  not  slip  in  as  a  sort  of  interloper  it  has  nothing  to 
apologize  for.  Between  the  infinite  and  the  infinitesimal 
all  sizes  are  equally  central.  The  Greeks,  the  Saracens, 
the  English,  the  Chinese,  and  Japanese  instinctively  retain 
the  human  scale  in  all  that  part  of  their  work  which  is 
most  characteristic  of  them  and  nearest  to  their  affections. 
A  Greek  temple  or  the  hall  of  an  English  mansion  can  be 
spacious  and  dignified  enough,  but  they  do  not  outrun 
familiar  uses,  and  they  lend  their  spaciousness  and  dignity 
to  the  mind,  instead  of  crushing  it.  Everything  about  them 
has  an  air  of  friendliness  and  sufficiency ;  their  elegance 
is  not  pompous,  and  if  they  are  noble  they  are  certainly 
not  vast,  cold,  nor  gilded. 

The  Saracens,  Chinese,  and  Japanese  in  their  various 
ways  use  the  human  scale  with  even  greater  refinement, 
for  they  apply  it  also  in  a  sensuous  and  psychological 
direction.  Not  only  is  the  size  of  their  works  moderate  by 
preference,  like  their  brief  lyrics,  but  they  exactly  meet 
human  sensibility  by  a  great  delicacy  and  concentration 
in  design  and  a  fragrant  simplicity  in  workmanship. 
Everything  they  make  is  economical  in  its  beauty  and 


seems  to  say  to  us  :  "I  exist  only  to  be  enjoyed  ;  there  is 
nothing  in  me  not  merely  delightful."  Here  the  human 
scale  is  not  drawn  from  the  human  body  so  much  as  from 
the  human  soul ;  its  faculties  are  treated  with  deference — 
I  mean  the  faculties  it  really  has,  not  those,  like  reason, 
which  a  flattering  philosophy  may  impute  to  it. 

An  English  country  house  which  is  a  cottage  in  appear 
ance  may  turn  out  on  examination  to  be  almost  a  palace 
in  extent  and  appointments  ;  there  is  no  parade,  yet  there 
is  great  profusion — too  much  furniture,  too  many  orna 
ments,  too  much  food,  too  many  flowers,  too  many  people. 
Everything  there  is  on  the  human  scale  except  the  quantity 
of  things,  which  is  oppressive.  The  Orientals  are  poorer, 
more  voluptuous,  and  more  sensitive  to  calligraphy  ; 
they  leave  empty  spaces  about  them  and  enjoy  one  thing 
at  a  time  and  enjoy  it  longer. 

One  reason  for  this  greater  subtlety  and  mercifulness 
in  the  art  of  Orientals  is  perhaps  the  fiercer  assault  made 
on  their  senses  by  nature.  The  Englishman  lives  in  a 
country  which  is  itself  on  the  human  scale,  clement  at  all 
seasons,  charming  with  a  gently  inconstant  atmospheric 
charm.  The  rare  humanity  of  nature  in  his  island 
permeates  his  being  from  boyhood  up  with  a  delight  that 
is  half  sentimental,  half  physical  and  sporting.  In  his 
fields  and  moors  he  grows  keen  and  fond  of  exertion  ; 
there  too  his  friendships  and  his  estimates  of  men  are 
shaped  unawares,  as  if  under  some  silent  superior  influence. 
There  he  imbibes  the  impressions  that  make  him  tender  to 
poetry.  He  may  not  require  great  subtlety  in  his  poets, 
but  he  insists  that  their  sentiment  shall  have  been  felt 
and  their  images  seen,  and  while  the  obvious,  even  the 
shamelessly  obvious,  does  not  irritate  him,  he  hates  cheap 
sublimity  and  false  notes.  He  respects  experience  and  is 
master  of  it  in  his  own  field. 

Thus  the  empty  spaces  with  which  a  delicate  art  likes 
to  surround  itself  are  supplied  for  the  Englishman  by  his 
comradeship  with  nature,  his  ranging  habits,  and  the 
reticence  of  his  imagination.  There  the  unexpressed 
dimension,  the  background  of  pregnant  silence,  exists  for 
him  in  all  its  power.  For  the  Saracen,  on  the  contrary, 
nature  is  an  abyss  :  parched  deserts,  hard  mountains, 


night  with  its  overwhelming  moon.  Here  the  human  scale 
is  altogether  transgressed  ;  nature  is  cruel,  alien,  excessive, 
to  be  fled  from  with  a  veiled  face.  For  a  relief  and  solace 
he  builds  his  house  without  windows  ;  he  makes  his  life 
simple,  his  religion  a  single  phrase,  his  art  exquisite  and 
slight,  like  the  jet  of  his  fountain.  It  is  sweet  and  necessary 
that  the  works  of  man  should  respect  the  human  scale 
when  everything  in  nature  so  infinitely  transcends  it. 

Why  the  Egyptians  loved  things  colossal  I  do  not 
know,  but  the  taste  of  the  Romans  for  the  grandiose  is 
easier  to  understand.  It  seems  to  have  been  part  and 
parcel  of  that  yearning  for  the  super-human  which  filled 
late  antiquity.  This  yearning  took  two  distinct  directions. 
Among  the  worldly  it  fostered  imperialism,  organization, 
rhetoric,  portentous  works,  belief  in  the  universality  and 
eternity  of  Rome,  and  actual  deification  of  emperors. 
Among  the  spiritually-minded  it  led  to  a  violent  abstraction 
from  the  world,  so  that  the  soul  in  its  inward  solitude 
might  feel  itself  inviolate  and  divine.  The  Christians  at 
first  belonged  of  course  to  the  latter  party  ;  they  detested 
the  inflation  of  the  empire,  with  its  cold  veneer  of  marble 
and  of  optimism  ;  they  were  nothing  if  not  humble  and 
dead  to  the  world.  Their  catacombs  were  perforce  on  the 
human  scale,  as  a  coffin  is  ;  but  even  when  they  emerged 
to  the  surface,  they  reduced  rather  than  enlarged  the 
temples  and  basilicas  bequeathed  to  them  by  the  pagans. 
Apart  from  a  few  imperial  structures  at  Constantinople 
or  Ravenna  their  churches  for  a  thousand  years  kept  to 
the  human  scale  ;  often  they  were  diminutive ;  when 
necessary  they  were  spread  out  to  hold  multitudes,  but 
remained  low  and  in  the  nature  of  avenues  to  a  tomb  or  a 
shrine.  The  centre  was  some  sombre  precinct,  often 
subterranean,  where  the  inward  man  might  commune  with 
the  other  world.  The  sacraments  were  received  with  a 
bowed  head  ;  they  did  not  call  for  architectural  vistas. 
The  sumptuousness  that  in  time  encrusted  these  sanctuaries 
was  that  of  a  jewel — the  Oriental,  interior,  concentrated 
sumptuousness  of  the  cloistered  arts.  Yet  the  open-air 
pagan  tradition  was  not  dead.  Roman  works  were  every 
where,  and  not  all  in  ruins,  and  love  of  display  and  of 
plastic  grandiloquence  lay  hardly  dormant  in  the  breast 


of  many.  It  required  only  a  little  prosperity  to  dispel  the 
mystical  humility  and  detachment  which  Christianity 
had  brought  with  it  at  first ;  and  the  human  scale  of  the 
Christian  Greeks  yielded  at  the  first  opportunity  to  the 
gigantic  scale  of  the  Romans.  Spaces  were  cleared,  vaults 
were  raised,  arches  were  made  pointed  in  order  that  they 
might  be  wider  and  be  poised  higher,  towers  and  spires 
were  aimed  at  the  clouds,  usually  getting  only  half  way, 
porches  became  immense  caverns.  Brunelleschi  accom 
plished  a  tour  de  force  in  his  dome  and  Michelangelo  another 
in  his,  even  more  stupendous.  These  various  strained 
models,  straining  in  divergent  directions,  have  kept  artists 
uneasy  and  impotent  ever  since,  except  when  under  some 
benign  influence  they  have  recovered  the  human  scale, 
and  in  domestic  architecture  or  portrait  painting  have 
forgotten  to  be  grand  and  have  become  felicitous. 

The  same  movement  is  perhaps  easier  to  survey  in 
philosophy  than  in  architecture.  Scarcely  had  Socrates 
brought  investigation  down  from  the  heavens  and  limited 
it  to  morals — a  realm  essentially  on  the  human  scale — 
when  his  pupils  hastened  to  undo  his  work  by  projecting 
their  moral  system  again  into  the  sky,  denaturalizing  both 
morals  and  nature.  They  imagined  a  universe  circling 
about  man,  tempering  the  light  for  his  eyes  and  making 
absolute  his  childlike  wishes  and  judgements.  This  was 
humanism  out  of  scale  and  out  of  place,  an  attempt  to 
cut  not  the  works  of  man  but  the  universe  to  human 
measure.  It  was  the  nemesis  that  overtook  the  Greeks 
for  having  become  too  complacently  human.  Earlier  the 
monstrous  had  played  a  great  part  in  their  religion  ;  hence 
forth  that  surrounding  immensity  having  been  falsely 
humanized,  their  modest  humanity  itself  had  to  be  made 
monstrous  to  fill  its  place. 

Hence  we  see  the  temples  growing  larger  and  larger, 
the  dome  introduced,  things  on  the  human  scale  piled  on 
one  another  to  make  a  sublime  fabric,  like  Saint  Sophia, 
triumphal  arches  on  pedestals  not  to  be  passed  through, 
vain  columns  like  towers,  with  a  statue  poised  on  the 
summit  like  a  weathercock,  and  finally  doors  so  large  that 
they  could  not  be  opened  and  little  doors  had  to  be  cut  in 
them  for  men  to  use.  So  the  human  scale  turned  up 


again  irrepressibly,  but  for  the  moment  without  its  native 
dignity,  because  it  had  been  stretched  to  compass  a  lifeless 
dignity  quite  other  than  its  own. 


NESTS  were  the  first  buildings  ;  I  suppose  the  birds  built 
them  long  before  man  ceased  to  be  four-footed  or  four- 
handed,  and  to  swing  by  his  tail  from  trees.  The  nests 
of  man  were  coverts,  something  between  a  hole  in  the 
ground  and  an  arbour  ;  a  retreat  easily  turned  into  a  wig 
wam,  a  hut,  or  a  tent,  when  once  man  had  begun  to  flay 
animals  and  to  weave  mats.  From  the  tent  we  can  imagine 
the  cart  developing — one  of  the  earliest  of  human  habita 
tions — and  from  the  cart  the  boat :  tents,  boats,  and  carts 
(as  the  Englishman  knows  so  well)  are  in  a  manner  more 
human  than  houses  ;  they  are  the  shelters  of  freemen. 
Some  men,  those  destined  to  higher  things,  are  migratory  ; 
they  have  imagination,  being  haunted  by  absent  things, 
and  distance  of  itself  allures  them,  even  if  dearth  or  danger 
does  not  drive  them  on  ;  indeed,  dearth  and  danger  would 
not  of  themselves  act  as  incentives  to  migration,  if  some 
safer  and  greener  paradise  were  not  present  to  the  fancy. 
Ranging  into  varied  climates,  these  men  feel  the  need  of 
that  portable  shelter  which  we  call  clothes  ;  and  at  a 
slightly  greater  distance  from  their  skins,  they  surround 
themselves  with  a  second  integument,  also  portable,  the 
tent,  cart,  or  boat.  The  first  home  of  man  is  appropriately 
without  foundations,  except  in  the  instincts  of  his  soul ; 
and  it  is  only  by  a  slight  anchorage  to  the  earth,  in  some 
tempting  glen  or  by  some  flowing  river,  that  the  cart, 
boat,  or  tent  becomes  a  dwelling-house.  Here  I  see  the 
secret  of  that  paradox,  that  the  English  people  who  have 
invented  the  word  home,  should  be  such  travellers  and 
colonists,  and  should  live  so  largely  and  so  contentedly 
abroad.  Home  is  essentially  portable  ;  it  has  no  terrene 
foundation,  like  a  tomb,  a  well,  or  an  altar  ;  it  is  an 
integument  of  the  living  man,  as  the  body  itself  is  ;  and  as 


the  body  is  more  than  the  raiment,  and  determines  its 
form,  so  the  inner  man  is  more  than  his  dwelling,  and 
causes  it  to  mould  and  to  harden  itself  round  him  like  a 
shell,  wherever  he  may  be.  Home  is  built  round  his  bed, 
his  cupboard,  and  his  chimney-corner  ;  and  such  a  nest,  if 
it  fits  his  habits,  is  home  all  the  world  over,  from  Hudson's 
Bay  to  Malacca  ;  at  least,  it  becomes  home  when  the  inner 
man,  as  he  is  prompted  inwardly  to  do,  surrounds  himself 
there  with  a  family  ;  for  a  home  is  a  nest,  and  somehow 
incomplete  without  an  egg  to  sit  on. 

This  seems  to  me  to  be  the  true  genealogy  of  English 
architecture,  in  so  far  as  it  is  English.  Strictly  speaking, 
there  is  no  English  architecture  at  all,  only  foreign  archi 
tecture  adapted  and  domesticated  in  England.  But  how 
thoroughly  and  admirably  domesticated  !  How  entirely 
transmuted  inwardly  from  the  classic  tragic  monumental 
thing  it  was,  into  something  which,  even  if  in  abstract 
design  it  seems  unchanged,  has  a  new  expression,  a  new 
scale,  a  new  subordination  of  part  to  part,  and  as  it  were 
a  new  circulation  of  the  blood  within  it !  It  has  all  been 
made  to  bend  and  to  cling  like  ivy  round  the  inner  man  ; 
it  has  all  been  rendered  domestic  and  converted  into  a 
home.  Far  other  was  the  character  proper  to  nobler 
architecture  in  its  foreign  seats.  There  it  had  been  essenti 
ally  military,  religious,  or  civic  :  it  had  begun  perhaps  with 
a  slight  modification  or  rearrangement  of  great  stones  lying 
on  the  ground,  perhaps  infinitely  rooted  in  its  depths. 
Its  centre  was  no  living  person,  but  some  spot  with  a  magic 
and  compulsive  influence,  or  with  a  communal  function  ; 
it  came  to  glorify  three  slabs — the  tomb,  the  hearth,  and 
the  altar — and  to  render  them  monumental.  The  tribe 
or  the  king  had  a  treasure  to  be  roofed  over  and  walled 
in  ;  the  mound  where  the  dead  lay  buried  was  marked 
with  a  heap  of  stones  ;  pillars  were  set  up  to  the  right  and 
to  the  left  of  the  presiding  deity,  to  dignify  the  place  where 
he  delivered  true  oracles,  and  dispensed  magic  powers. 
This  deity  himself  was  a  pillar,  scarcely  humanized  in  form, 
or  fantastically  named  after  some  animal ;  and  as  he  grew 
colossal,  and  his  features  took  form  and  colour,  his  sacred 
head  had  to  be  arched  over  with  more  labour  and  art  ; 
and  the  approach  to  him  was  impressively  delayed  through 


pylons,  courts,  narthex,  or  nave,  into  the  sepulchral  darkness 
of  the  holy  of  holies.  Similarly  defences  grew  into  citadels, 
and  judgement-seats  into  palaces  ;  and  as  for  individual 
men,  if  they  did  not  sleep  in  the  embrasure  of  some  temple 
gate,  or  under  some  public  stair,  they  found  cubicles  in  the 
galleries  of  the  king's  court,  or  built  themselves  huts  to 
breed  in  under  the  lee  of  the  fortifications. 

This  sort  of  architecture  has  a  tragic  character  ;  it 
dominates  the  soul  rather  than  expresses  it,  and  embodies 
stabilities  and  powers  far  older  than  any  one  man,  and  far 
more  lasting.  It  confronts  each  generation  like  an  inexor 
able  deity,  like  death  and  war  and  labour  ;  life  is  passed, 
thoughtlessly  but  not  happily,  under  that  awful  shadow. 
Of  course,  there  are  acolytes  in  the  temple  and  pages  in  the 
palace  that  scamper  all  over  the  most  hallowed  precincts, 
tittering  and  larking  ;  and  the  same  retreats  may  seem 
luminous  and  friendly  afterwards  to  the  poet,  the  lover, 
or  the  mind  bereaved  ;  yet  in  their  essential  function  these 
monuments  are  arresting,  serious,  silent,  overwhelming  ; 
they  are  a  source  of  terror  and  compunction,  like  tragedy  ; 
they  are  favourable  to  prayer,  ecstasy,  and  meditation. 
At  other  times  they  become  the  scene  of  enormous  gather 
ings,  of  parades  and  thrilling  celebrations  ;  but  always  it  is 
a  vast  affair,  like  a  court  ball,  in  which  one  insinuates 
one's  littleness  into  what  corner  one  can,  to  see  and  feel 
the  movement  of  the  whole,  without  playing  any  great 
part  in  it.  Even  the  most  amiable  forms  of  classic  archi 
tecture  have  this  public  character.  There  is  the  theatre 
and  the  circus,  into  which  one  must  squeeze  one's  person 
uncomfortably,  in  order  to  subject  one's  mind  to  contagious 
emotions,  and  the  judgements  of  the  crowd  ;  and  even 
the  public  fountain,  at  which  the  housemaids  and  water- 
boys  wait  for  their  turn,  plays  for  ever  far  above  the  heads 
of  the  people  ;  as  if  that  Neptune  and  those  dolphins 
were  spouting  for  their  own  pleasure,  cooling  the  sun 
shine  for  their  own  bronze  limbs,  and  never  caring  whether 
they  soused  the  passing  mortal,  or  quenched  his  thirst. 

All  these  forms  and  habits  are  intensely  un-English,  and 
yet  England  is  full  of  vestiges  of  them,  not  only  because 
its  fine  arts  are  derived  from  abroad,  but  because,  however 
disguised,  the  same  tragic  themes  must  appear  everywhere. 


The  tomb,  the  temple,  the  fortress  are  obligatory  things ; 
but  they  become  properly  English  in  character  only  when 
their  public  function  recedes  into  the  background,  and  they 
become  interesting  to  the  inner  man  by  virtue  of  associations 
or  accidents  which  harmonize  them  with  his  sentimental 
experience.  They  grow  English  in  growing  picturesque. 
These  castles  and  abbeys  were  Norman  when  they  were 
built,  they  were  expressions  of  domination  and  fear,  hard, 
crude,  practical,  and  foreign.  But  now  the  moat  is  grass- 
grown,  the  cloister  in  ruins,  the  headless  saints  are  posts 
for  the  roses  to  creep  over,  the  frowning  keep  has  lost  its 
battlements  and  become  a  comfortable  mansion  mantled 
with  ivy ;  before  it  the  well-dressed  young  people  play 
croquet  on  the  lawn  ;  and  the  chapel,  whitewashed  within, 
politely  furnished  with  pews,  and  politely  frequented  on 
Sundays,  is  embowered  in  a  pretty  garden  of  a  graveyard, 
which  the  yew  seems  to  sanctify  more  than  the  cross, 
and  the  flowers  to  suit  better  than  the  inscriptions  ;  there 
is  a  bench  there  round  the  great  tree,  where  the  old  villagers 
sit  of  an  evening,  and  its  branches,  far  overtopping  the 
church  spire  with  its  restored  sun-dial,  seem  to  dispense 
a  surer  grace  and  protection  than  the  church  itself :  they 
seem  more  unequivocally  the  symbol  and  the  work  of 
God.  So  everything,  in  its  ruin,  seems  in  England  to  live 
a  new  life  ;  and  it  is  only  this  second  life,  this  cottage 
built  in  the  fallen  stronghold,  that  is  English. 

If  great  architecture  has  a  tragic  character,  it  does  not 
exclude,  in  the  execution,  a  certain  play  of  fancy,  a  sportive 
use  of  the  forms  which  the  needful  structure  imposes  ;  and 
these  decorative  frills  or  arbitrary  variations  of  theme 
might  be  called  comic  architecture.  This  is  the  side  of  the 
art  which  is  subject  to  fashion,  and  changes  under  the 
same  influences,  with  the  same  swiftness  and  the  same 
unanimity.  But  as  fashions  among  peasants  sometimes 
last  for  ages,  so  certain  decorative  themes,  although  quite 
arbitrary,  sometimes  linger  on  because  of  the  inertia  of 
the  eye,  which  demands  what  it  is  used  to,  or  the  poverty 
of  invention  in  the  designer.  The  worst  taste  and  the  best 
taste  revel  in  decoration  ;  but  the  motive  here  is  play 
and  there  display.  The  Englishman  deprecates  both  ;  he 
abominates  the  tawdry,  the  theatrical,  the  unnecessarily 


elaborate  ;  and  at  the  same  time  he  is  shy  of  novelty  and 
playfulness  ;  give  him  comfortable  old  grey  clothes,  good 
for  all  weathers,  and  comfortable,  pleasing,  inconspicuous 
houses,  where  he  can  live  without  feeling  a  fool  or  being 
the  victim  of  his  possessions.  The  comic  poses  of  archi 
tecture,  which  come  to  him  from  abroad,  together  with  its 
tragic  structure,  he  accordingly  tones  down  and  neutralizes 
as  far  as  possible.  How  gently,  for  instance,  how  pleasantly 
the  wave  of  Italian  architecture  broke  on  these  grassy 
shores  !  The  classic  line,  which  is  tragic  in  its  simple 
veracity  and  fixity,  had  already  been  submerged  in  attempts 
to  vary  it ;  in  England,  as  in  France,  the  Gothic  habit  of 
letting  each  part  of  a  building  have  its  own  roof  and  its 
own  symmetry,  at  once  introduced  the  picturesque  into 
the  most  "  classic  "  designs.  The  Italian  scale,  too,  was 
at  once  reduced,  and  the  Italian  rhetoric  in  stone,  the 
baroque  and  the  spectacular,  was  obliterated.  How 
pleasantly  the  Palladian  forms  were  fitted  to  their  English 
setting ;  how  the  windows  were  widened  and  subdivided, 
the  show  pediments  forgotten,  the  wreathed  urns  shaved 
into  modest  globes,  the  pilasters  sensibly  broadened  into 
panels,  and  the  classical  detail  applied  to  the  native  Gothic 
framework,  with  its  gables,  chimneys,  and  high  roofs  ; 
whence  the  delightful  brood  of  Jacobean  and  Queen  Anne 
houses  ;  and  in  the  next  generation  the  so  genteel,  so 
judicious  Georgian  mansion,  with  its  ruddy  brick,  its  broad 
windows,  and  its  delicate  mouldings  and  accessories  of 
stone.  The  tragic  and  the  comic  were  spirited  away 
together,  and  only  the  domestic  remained. 

Nevertheless,  at  one  of  the  greatest  moments  in  its 
history,  England  had  seemed  to  revel  in  comic  art,  and  to 
have  made  it  thoroughly  its  own.  Domestic  taste  had 
reduced  Gothic  too,  in  England,  to  the  human  scale  ;  pro 
digies  of  height  and  width  in  vaulting  were  not  attempted, 
doors  remained  modest,  hooded,  perhaps,  with  an  almost 
rustic  porch  ;  the  vast  spaces  were  subdivided,  they  were 
encrusted  with  ornament ;  the  lines  became  playful,  fan- 
tracery  was  invented,  and  floral  pendants  of  stone  ;  the 
walls  became  all  glass,  the  ceilings  carved  bowers,  and 
Gothic  seemed  on  the  point  of  smothering  its  rational 
skeleton  altogether  in  luxurious  trappings  and  the  millinery 



of  fashion.    All  England  seemed  to  become  one  field  of  the 
cloth  of  gold  ;    rooms  looked  like  gilded  palanquins  or 
silken  tents,  roofs  were  forests  of  bannerets,  pinnacles,  and 
weathercocks ;    heraldry  (a  comic  art)   overspread  every 
garment  and  utensil.     Poetry,  too,  became  euphuistic  and 
labyrinthine  and  nevertheless  friendly  and  familiar  and 
full  of  a  luscious  humour,  like  the  wit  of  the  people.    Even 
prose  was  a  maze  of  metaphors  and  conceits,  every  phrase 
was  embroidered,  and  no  self-respecting  person  could  say 
yea  or  nay  without  some  artful  circumlocution.     It  was 
this  outburst  of  universal  comedy  that  made  Shakespeare 
possible — an  exuberant  genius  in  some  respects  not  like 
a  modern  Englishman  ;  he  rose  on  the  crest  of  a  somewhat 
exotic  wave  of  passion  and  vivacity,  which  at  once  subsided. 
Some  vestiges  of  that  spirit  seem  to  linger  in  American 
manners  ;  but  for  the  most  part  puritanism  killed  it ;  and 
I  do  not  think  we  need  regret  its  loss.    What  could  England 
have  been  but  for  the  triumph  of  Protestantism  there  ? 
Only  a  coarser  France,  or  a  cockney  Ireland.    The  puritan 
stiffening  was  essential  to  raise  England  to  its  external 
dignity  and  greatness  ;    and  it  was  needed  to  fortify  the 
inner  man,  to  sober  him,  and  persuade  him  to  be  worthy  of 
himself.    As  for  comic  art,  there  is  enough  of  it  elsewhere, 
in  the  oriental  and  the  French  schools,  and  in  painting  and 
drawing,  if  not  in  architecture,  all  the  younger  artists  are 
experimenting  with  it.    The  sort  of  aestheticism  which  was 
the  fashion  in  London  at  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century 
tried  to  be  playful,  and  to  dote  on  art  for  its  own  sake  ; 
but  in  reality  it  was  full  of  a  perverted  moralism ;    the 
aesthetes  were  simply  Ruskin's  pupils  running  away  from 
school ;  they  thought  it  immensely  important  to  be  choice, 
and  quite  disgraceful  to  think  of  morals.    The  architecture 
of  that  time  was  certainly  not  comic  in  my  sense  of  the 
word,  it  did  not  give  a  free  rein  to  exuberant  fancy  :    it 
was  only  railway  Gothic.    But  in  England  the  mists  and 
the  ivy  and  the  green  sward  and  the  dark  screening  trees 
can  make  endurable  even  that  abortion  of  the  ethics  of 
Ruskin  :  and  with  better  models,  and  less  wilfulness,  I  see 
the  fresh  building  of  to-day  recovering  a  national  charm  : 
the   scale    small,    the    detail    polyglot,    the    arrangement 
gracious  and  convenient,  the  marriage  with  the  green  earth 


and  the  luminous  air,  foreseen  and  prepared  for.  Domestic 
architecture  in  England  follows  to  the  letter  the  advice 
of  Polonius  : 

Costly  thy  garment  as  thy  purse  can  buy, 
But  not  expressed  in  fancy :  rich,  not  gaudy. 



COMPROMISE  is  odious  to  passionate  natures  because  it 
seems  a  surrender,  and  to  intellectual  natures  because  it 
seems  a  confusion  ;  but  to  the  inner  man,  to  the  profound 
Psyche  within  us,  whose  life  is  warm,  nebulous,  and  plastic, 
compromise  seems  the  path  of  profit  and  justice.  Health 
has  many  conditions  ;  life  is  a  resultant  of  many  forces. 
Are  there  not  several  impulses  in  us  at  every  moment  ? 
Are  there  not  several  sides  to  every  question  ?  Has  not 
every  party  caught  sight  of  something  veritably  right  and 
good  ?  Is  not  the  greatest  practicable  harmony,  or  the 
least  dissension,  the  highest  good  ?  And  if  by  the  word 
"  truth  "  we  designate  not  the  actual  order  of  the  facts, 
nor  the  exact  description  of  them,  but  some  inner  symbol 
of  reconciliation  with  reality  on  our  own  part,  bringing 
comfort,  safety,  and  assurance,  then  truth  also  will  lie  in 
compromise  :  truth  will  be  partly  truth  to  oneself,  partly 
workable  convention  and  plausibility.  A  man's  life  as  it 
flows  is  not  a  theorem  to  which  there  is  any  one  rigid 
solution.  It  is  composed  of  many  strands  and  looks  to 
divers  issues.  There  is  the  love  of  home  and  the  lure  of 
adventure  ;  there  is  chastity  which  is  a  good,  and  there  is 
love  which  is  a  good  also  ;  work  must  leave  room  for  sport, 
science  for  poetry,  and  reason  for  prejudice.  Can  it  be  a 
man's  duty  to  annul  any  of  the  elements  that  make  up 
his  moral  being  and,  because  he  possesses  a  religious 
tradition,  shall  he  refuse  the  gifts  of  his  senses,  of  his 
affections,  of  his  country  and  its  history,  of  the  ruling 
science,  morality,  and  taste  of  his  day  ?  Far  from  it : 
religion,  says  the  inner  man,  ought  rather  to  be  the  highest 
synthesis  of  our  nature,  and  make  room  for  all  these  things. 


It  should  not  succumb  to  any  dead  or  foreign  authority 
that  ignores  or  dishonours  them.  The  Englishman  finds 
that  he  was  born  a  Christian,  and  therefore  wishes  to 
remain  a  Christian  ;  but  his  Christianity  must  be  his  own, 
no  less  plastic  and  adaptable  than  his  inner  man  ;  and  it 
is  an  axiom  with  him  that  nothing  can  be  obligatory  for 
a  Christian  which  is  unpalatable  to  an  Englishman. 

Only  a  few  years  ago,  if  a  traveller  landing  in  England 
on  a  Sunday  and  entering  an  Anglican  church,  had  been 
told  that  the  country  was  Catholic  and  its  church  a  branch 
of  the  Catholic  church,  his  astonishment  would  have  been 
extreme.  "  Catholic  "  is  opposed  in  the  first  place  to 
national  and  in  the  second  place  to  Protestant ;  how  then, 
he  would  have  asked  himself,  can  a  church  be  Catholic 
that  is  so  obviously  and  dismally  Protestant,  and  so 
narrowly  and  primly  national  ?  Why  then  this  abuse  of 
language  ?  And  why  this  silly  provincialism  of  insisting 
on  always  calling  Catholics  Roman  Catholics,  as  if  there 
were  any  others,  and  they  were  not  known  by  that  name 
all  the  world  over  ?  Nevertheless,  the  restoration  of  an 
elder  Anglicanism  in  our  day  has  somewhat  softened  these 
paradoxes  ;  and  when  we  remember  how  fondly  the  English 
screen  their  instincts  in  legal  fictions  and  in  genteel  shams, 
the  paradoxes  vanish  altogether. 

What  is  Protestantism  ?  It  is  all  things  to  all  men,  if 
they  are  Protestants  :  but  I  see  in  it  three  leading  motifs  : 
to  revert  to  primitive  Christianity,  to  inspire  moral  and 
political  reform,  and  to  accept  the  religious  witness  of  the 
inner  man.  Now  the  Church  of  England,  intensely  Pro 
testant  as  it  seemed  until  the  other  day,  is  not  Protestant 
in  any  of  these  respects.  No  established  national  church 
could  possibly  be  so.  The  subjection  to  Parliament  which 
renders  the  English  church  not  Catholic,  renders  it  also 
not  Protestant.  To  a  primitive  Christian,  to  a  puritan 
reformer  or  to  a  transcendental  mystic,  a  religion  estab 
lished  by  lay  authority  is  a  contradiction  in  terms ;  a  lay 
government  may  be  more  or  less  inspired  by  righteous 
ness,  but  it  cannot  mediate  salvation.  A  Protestant  is 
essentially  a  nonconformist.  Moreover,  if  we  examine  the 
theology  of  the  English  church,  we  see  that  whilst  inci 
dentally  very  heretical,  it  is  still  fundamentally  Catholic ; 


it  admits  only  a  single  deposit  of  faith  and  one  apostolic 
fountain  of  grace  for  all  mankind.  But  in  its  view  heresy 
in  any  branch  of  the  church  does  not  cut  it  off  from  the 
tree.  Heresy  is  something  to  which  all  churches  are  liable  ; 
the  pope  of  Rome  and  the  patriarch  of  Constantinople  fall 
into  it  hardly  less  often  or  less  desperately  than  the  arch 
bishop  of  Canterbury  himself.  Heresy  is  to  be  conceived 
as  eccentricity  within  the  fold,  not  as  separation  from  it ; 
it  is  the  tacking  of  the  ship  on  its  voyage.  Saint  Peter  or 
Saint  Paul  or  both  of  them  must  have  been  heretical  in 
their  little  controversies ;  and  Christ  himself  must  have 
had  at  times,  if  not  always,  but  a  partial  view  of  the  truth  ; 
for  instance,  in  respect  to  the  date  and  the  material  nature 
of  his  second  coming.  Accordingly,  although  it  may  be  a 
little  trying  to  the  nerves,  it  is  no  essential  scandal  that  a 
curate  should  be  addicted  to  Mariolatry,  or  that  a  dean 
should  be  unfortunately  ambiguous  on  the  subject  of  the 
Incarnation :  such  rapids  and  backwaters  in  the  stream 
of  Christian  thought  only  prove  how  broad  and  full  it  is 
capable  of  being. 

That  many  Catholic  bodies,  if  not  all,  should  be  con 
stantly  schismatic  or  heretical,  is  therefore  no  paradox 
with  this  conception  of  the  church  ;  and  it  is  obvious  that 
Rome  itself  is  heretical  and  schismatic  on  this  theory, 
since  it  has  laid  an  exaggerated  weight  on  the  text  about 
Peter  and  the  keys,  and  has  claimed  a  jurisdiction  over 
the  eastern  patriarchates  which  was  certainly  not  primitive, 
and  which  these  patriarchates  have  never  honestly  acknow 
ledged.  On  the  other  hand,  the  Church  of  England 
belonged  to  the  Western  Empire  and  its  Christianity  has 
always  been  Latin.  It  broke  away  from  the  patriarchate 
of  Rome  not  at  all  in  sympathy  with  the  claims  of  Antioch 
or  Constantinople,  but  notoriously  in  sympathy  with 
German  Protestantism.  This  revolt  was  based  on  the 
same  anti-Catholic  and  inconsistent  motives  as  the  German 
Reformation — namely,  greed  and  desire  for  absolute  power 
in  princes,  zeal  in  puritan  reformers,  and  impatience  of 
moral  and  intellectual  constraint  in  the  body  of  the  clergy 
and  laity.  Nationalism,  faith,  learning,  and  Ikence  were 
curiously  mingled  in  those  turbid  minds,  and  the  Church  of 
England  inherits  all  that  indescribable  spiritual  confusion. 


It  is  national  in  its  morals  and  manners,  mincing  in  its 
scholarship,  snobbish  in  its  sympathies,  sentimental  in 
its  emotions.  Spiritual  minds  in  the  church — of  which 
there  are  many — suffer  under  this  heredity  incubus  of 
worldliness  ;  but  what  can  they  avail  ?  Some  join  the 
socialists  ;  a  few  escape  to  Rome ;  there  at  least  the  worldli 
ness,  however  conspicuous,  is  regarded  as  a  vice  and  not 
as  a  virtue.  The  convert  will  find  no  dearth  of  petty 
passions,  machinations,  vanities,  tricks,  and  shameless 
disbelief  ;  but  all  this  will  be,  like  debauchery,  a  crust  of 
corruption,  avowedly  corrupt.  It  is  dirt  on  the  skin, 
not  cancer  at  the  heart.  But  then  the  true  Catholic  has 
made  the  great  surrender ;  he  has  renounced,  or  never 
thought  of  maintaining,  the  authority  of  his  inner  man. 
He  is  a  catechumen  ;  his  teachers  will  read  for  him  the 
symptoms  of  health  or  disease  visible  in  his  thoughts  and 
dispositions  ;  by  their  discipline — which  is  an  ancient 
science — they  will  help  him  to  save  his  soul ;  a  totally 
different  thing  from  obeying  the  impulses  or  extending 
the  adventures  of  the  transcendental  self.  The  inner 
man,  for  the  Catholic  as  for  the  materialist,  is  only  a 
pathological  phenomenon.  Therefore  the  Englishman,  as 
I  conceive  him,  living  in  and  by  his  inner  man,  can  never 
be  really  a  Catholic,  either  Anglican  or  Roman  ;  if  he  likes 
to  call  himself  by  either  name,  it  is  equally  a  masquerade, 
a  fad  like  a  thousand  others  to  which  the  inner  man,  so 
seriously  playful,  is  prone  to  lend  itself.  He  may  go  over 
to  Rome  on  a  spiritual  tour,  as  he  might  abscond  for  a 
year  and  live  in  Japan  with  a  Japanese  wife  ;  but  if  he 
is  converted  really,  and  becomes  a  Catholic  at  heart,  for 
good,  and  in  all  simplicity,  then  he  is  no  longer  the  man 
he  was.  Words  cannot  measure  the  chasm  that  must 
henceforth  separate  him  from  everything  at  home.  I 
am  not  surprised  that  he  recoils  from  so  desperate  a  step. 
It  is  not  only  the  outward  coarseness  and  laxity  of  Catholic 
manners  that  offend  him ;  these  vices  are  not  universal, 
and  he  would  not  need  to  share  them.  But  for  him,  a 
modern  Englishman,  with  freedom  and  experiment  and 
reserve  in  his  blood,  always  nursing  within  himself  the 
silent  love  of  nature  and  of  rebellion,  to  go  over  to  Rome 
is  an  essential  suicide  :  the  inner  man  must  succumb  first. 


Such  an  Englishman  might  become  a  saint,  but  only  by 
becoming  a  foreigner. 

There  is  another  sense  altogether  in  which  the  English 
church  might  be  catholic  if  it  chose.  Suppose  we  lay  it 
down  as  an  axiom  that  whatever  is  acceptable  to  the  inner 
man  is  good  and  true,  and  that  whatever  is  good  and  true 
is  Christian — Christianity  would  then  be  open  to  every 
influence  which,  whilst  apparently  denaturalizing  it,  might 
help  to  manifest  -its  fulness.  It  would  cast  off  husk  after 
husk  of  doctrine,  developing  the  living  spirit  and  feeding  it 
with  every  substance  which  it  was  fitted  to  absorb.  There 
is  nothing  new  in  this  process.  Christianity  was  born  of 
such  a  marriage  between  the  Jewish  soul  and  the  Greek. 
Greek  philosophy  was  absorbed  with  magnificent  results ; 
the  restoration  of  Pauline  theology,  and  the  other  insights 
of  Protestantism,  led  to  German  philosophy,  which  has 
been  absorbed  too  ;  the  sloughing  off  of  monasticism  and 
ecclesiasticism  have  put  Christianity  in  a  position  to 
understand  and  express  the  modern  world  ;  the  reduction 
of  revelation,  by  the  higher  criticism  of  the  Bible,  to  its 
true  place  in  human  history,  will  involve  a  new  change 
of  front ;  and  the  absorption  of  modern  science  and  of 
democracy  would  complete  the  transformation. 

To  justify  this  method  the  church  might  appeal  to  an 
archbishop  of  Canterbury  who — this  was  in  the  old  days — 
was  also  a  saint  and  a  great  philosopher.  Saint  Anselm 
has  a  famous  proof  of  the  existence  of  God  which  runs  as 
follows  :  God  exists,  because  God  is,  by  definition,  the 
most  real  of  beings.  According  to  this  argument,  if  it 
should  turn  out  that  the  most  real  of  beings  was  matter, 
it  would  follow  that  matter  was  God.  This  might  be 
thought  a  consequence  drawn  in  mockery  ;  but  I  do  not 
mean  to  deride  Saint  Anselm,  whom  I  revere,  but  on  the 
contrary  to  lay  bare  the  nerve  of  his  argument  which  if 
the  age  had  given  him  scope,  and  he  had  not  been  Arch 
bishop  of  Canterbury,  he  might  have  followed  to  its 
sublime  conclusion,  as  Spinoza  did  after  him.  There  is 
a  dignity  in  existence,  in  fact,  in  truth  which  to  some 
speculative  and  rapt  natures  absorbs  and  cancels  every 
other  dignity  :  and  on  this  principle  the  English  church 
might,  without  any  sudden  or  distressing  negation,  gradu- 


ally  turn  its  worship  to  the  most  real  of  beings,  wheresoever 
it  may  be  found ;  and  I  presume  the  most  real  of  beings 
will  be  the  whole  of  what  is  found  everywhere.  A  narrower 
conception  of  God  might  at  each  step  give  place  to  a  wider 
one  ;  and  the  church,  instead  of  embodying  one  particular 
revelation  and  striving  to  impose  it  universally  through 
propaganda,  might  become  hospitable  to  all  revelations, 
and  find  a  place  for  the  inspirations  of  all  ages  and  countries 
under  the  aegis  of  its  own  progressive  traditions.  So  the 
religion  of  ancient  Rome  domesticated  all  the  gods ;  and 
so  the  English  language,  if  it  should  become  the  medium 
of  international  intercourse,  might  by  translation  or  imita 
tion  of  other  literatures  or  by  the  infiltration  into  it  of 
foreign  words  and  styles,  reafly  become  a  vehicle  for  all 
human  ideas. 

I  am  not  sure  whether  one  party  in  the  English  church 
might  not  welcome  such  a  destiny  ;  but  at  present,  so  far 
as  I  can  see,  the  tenderer  and  more  poetical  spirits  in  it 
take  quite  another  direction.  They  are  trying  to  recover 
the  insights  and  practices  of  mediaeval  piety  ;  they  are 
archaistic  in  devotion.  There  is  a  certain  romance  in 
their  decision  to  believe  greatly,  to  feel  mystically,  to  pray 
perpetually.  They  study  their  attitudes,  as  they  kneel 
in  some  correctly  restored  church,  hearing  or  intoning 
some  revived  early  chant,  and  wondering  why  they  should 
not  choose  a  divine  lady  in  heaven  to  be  their  love  and 
their  advocate,  as  did  the  troubadours,  or  why  they 
should  not  have  recumbent  effigies  of  themselves  carved  on 
their  tombs,  with  their  legs  crossed,  like  the  crusaders. 
"  Things,1'  cried  the  rapturous  young  priest  who  showed 
me  the  beautiful  chapel  of  Pusey  House,  "  what  we  need 
is  Things  \  " 



PROTESTANT  faith  does  not  vanish  into  the  sunlight  as 
Catholic  faith  does,  but  leaves  a  shadowy  ghost  haunting 
the  night  of  the  soul.  Faith,  in  the  two  cases,  was  not 
faith  in  the  same  sense  ;  for  the  Catholic  it  was  belief  in  a 


report  or  an  argument ;  for  the  Protestant  it  was  confidence 
in  an  allegiance.  When  Catholics  leave  the  church  they 
do  so  by  the  south  door,  into  the  glare  of  the  market-place, 
where  their  eye  is  at  once  attracted  by  the  wares  displayed 
in  the  booths,  by  the  flower-stalls  with  their  bright  awnings, 
by  the  fountain  with  its  baroque  Tritons  blowing  the 
spray  into  the  air,  and  the  children  laughing  and  playing 
round  it,  by  the  concourse  of  townspeople  and  strangers, 
and  by  the  soldiers,  perhaps,  marching  past ;  and  if  they 
cast  a  look  back  at  the  church  at  all,  it  is  only  to  admire 
its  antique  architecture,  that  crumbling  filigree  of  stone 
so  poetically  surviving  in  its  incongruous  setting.  It  is 
astonishing  sometimes  with  what  contempt,  with  what  a 
complete  absence  of  understanding,  unbelievers  in  Catholic 
countries  look  back  on  their  religion.  For  one  cultivated 
mind  that  sees  in  that  religion  a  monument  to  his  racial 
genius,  a  heritage  of  poetry  and  art  almost  as  precious  as 
the  classical  heritage,  which  indeed  it  incorporated  in  a 
hybrid  form,  there  are  twenty  ignorant  radicals  who  pass 
it  by  apologetically,  as  they  might  the  broken  toys  or 
dusty  schoolbooks  of  childhood.  Their  political  animosity, 
legitimate  in  itself,  blinds  their  imagination,  and  renders 
them  even  politically  foolish  ;  because  in  their  injustice 
to  human  nature  and  to  their  national  history  they  dis 
credit  their  own  cause,  and  provoke  reaction. 

Protestants,  on  the  contrary,  leave  the  church  by  the 
north  door,  into  the  damp  solitude  of  a  green  churchyard, 
amid  yews  and  weeping  willows  and  overgrown  mounds 
and  fallen  illegible  gravestones.  They  feel  a  terrible 
chill ;  the  few  weedy  flowers  that  may  struggle  through 
that  long  grass  do  not  console  them ;  it  was  far  brighter 
and  warmer  and  more  decent  inside.  The  church — 
boring  as  the  platitudes  and  insincerities  were  which  you 
listened  to  there  for  hours — was  an  edifice,  something 
protective,  social,  and  human  ;  whereas  here,  in  this  vague 
unhomely  wilderness,  nothing  seems  to  await  you  but 
discouragement  and  melancholy.  Better  the  church  than 
the  madhouse.  And  yet  the  Protestant  can  hardly  go 
back,  as  the  Catholic  does  easily  on  occasion,  out  of  habit, 
or  fatigue,  or  disappointment  in  life,  or  metaphysical 
delusion,  or  the  emotional  weakness  of  the  death-bed.  No, 


the  Protestant  is  more  in  earnest,  he  carries  his  problem 
and  his  religion  within  him.  In  his  very  desolation  he 
will  find  God.  This  has  often  been  a  cause  of  wonder  to 
me  :  the  Protestant  pious  economy  is  so  repressive  and 
morose  and  the  Catholic  so  charitable  and  pagan,  that  I 
should  have  expected  the  Catholic  sometimes  to  sigh  a 
little  for  his  Virgin  and  his  saints,  and  the  Protestant 
to  shout  for  joy  at  having  got  rid  of  his  God.  But  the 
trouble  is  that  the  poor  Protestant  can't  get  rid  of  his  God  ; 
for  his  idea  of  God  is  a  vague  symbol  that  stands  not 
essentially,  as  with  the  Catholic,  for  a  particular  legendary 
or  theological  personage,  but  rather  for  that  unfathomable 
influence  which,  if  it  does  not  make  for  righteousness,  at 
least  has  so  far  made  for  existence  and  has  imposed  it  upon 
us ;  so  that  go  through  what  doors  you  will  and  discard 
what  dogmas  you  choose,  God  will  confront  you  still 
whichever  way  you  may  turn.  In  this  sense  the  en 
lightened  Catholic,  too,  in  leaving  the  church,  has  merely 
rediscovered  God,  finding  him  now  not  in  the  church  alone, 
but  in  the  church  only  as  an  expression  of  human  fancy, 
and  in  human  life  itself  only  as  in  one  out  of  a  myriad 
forms  of  natural  existence.  But  the  Protestant  is  less 
clear  in  his  gropings,  the  atmosphere  of  his  inner  man 
is  more  charged  with  vapours,  and  it  takes  longer  for  the 
light  dubiously  to  break  through  ;  and  often  in  his  wintry 
day  the  sun  sets  without  shining. 


IN  all  Protestant  countries  I  have  noticed  a  certain  hush 
about  death,  an  uncomfortable  secrecy,  and  a  fear  as  if  of 
blasphemy  whenever  the  subject  threatens  to  come  up. 
Is  it  that  hell  is  still  felt  to  lie,  for  the  vast  majority, 
immediately  behind  the  curtain  ?  Or  is  it  that  people 
have  encouraged  themselves  to  live  and  love  as  if  they 
were  immortal,  and  to  this  lifelong  bluff  of  theirs  death 
brings  a  contradiction  which  they  have  not  the  courage 
to  face  ?  Or  is  it  simply  that  death  is  too  painful,  too 


sacred,  or  too  unseemly  for  polite  ears  ?  That  a  desire  to 
ignore  everything  unpleasant  is  at  the  bottom  of  this 
convention  seems  to  be  confirmed  by  an  opposite  attitude 
towards  death  which  I  have  observed  among  English 
people  during  this  war.  Some  of  them  speak  of  death 
quite  glibly,  quite  cheerfully,  as  if  it  were  a  sort  of  trip  to 
Brighton.  "  Oh  yes,  our  two  sons  went  down  in  the 
Black  Prince.  They  were  such  nice  boys.  Never  heard  a 
word  about  them,  of  course ;  but  probably  the  magazine 
blew  up  and  they  were  all  killed  quite  instantly,  so  that 
we  don't  mind  half  so  much  as  if  they  had  had  any  of 
those  bad  lingering  wounds.  They  wouldn't  have  liked 
it  at  all  being  crippled,  you  know ;  and  we  all  think  it 
is  probably  much  better  as  it  is.  Just  blown  to  atoms  \ 
It  is  such  a  blessing  !  " 

Of  course,  the  poor  parents  feel  their  hearts  sink  within 
them  in  private  ;  but  their  affectation  of  cheerfulness  has 
its  logic.  Death  is  a  fact ;  and  we  had  better  accept  it 
as  such  as  we  do  the  weather ;  perhaps,  if  we  pretend  not 
to  care,  we  really  shan't  care  so  much.  The  men  in  the 
trenches  and  hospitals  have  often  been  bitterly  unrecon 
ciled  and  rebellious,  and  haunted  by  the  cruel  futility  of 
their  sufferings  :  but  the  nursing  everywhere  has  been 
devoted  and  heroic  :  and  my  impression  of  the  mourning 
at  home  is,  that  it  has  been  philosophical. 

English  manners  are  sensible  and  conducive  to  comfort 
even  at  a  death-bed.  No  summoning  of  priests,  no  great 
concourse  of  friends  and  relations,  no  loud  grief,  no 
passionate  embraces  and  poignant  farewells  ;  no  endless 
confabulations  in  the  antechamber,  no  gossip  about  the 
symptoms,  the  remedies,  or  the  doctors'  quarrels  and 
blunders ;  no  breathless  enumeration  of  distinguished 
visitors,  letters,  and  telegrams  ;  no  tearful  reconciliation 
of  old  family  feuds  nor  whisperings  about  the  division  of 
the  property.  Instead,  either  silence  and  closed  doors,  if 
there  is  real  sorrow,  or  more  commonly  only  a  little  physical 
weariness  in  the  mourners,  a  little  sigh  or  glance  at  one 
another,  as  if  to  say :  We  are  simply  waiting  for  events  ; 
the  doctors  and  nurses  are  attending  to  everything,  and  no 
doubt,  when  the  end  comes,  it  will  be  for  the  best.  In  the 
departing  soul,  too,  probably  dulness  and  indifference.  No 


repentance,  no  anxiety,  no  definite  hopes  or  desires  either 
for  this  life  or  for  the  next.  Perhaps  old  memories  returning, 
old  loves  automatically  reviving ;  possibly  a  vision,  by 
anticipation,  of  some  reunion  in  the  other  world  :  but  how 
pale,  how  ghostly,  how  impotent  this  death-dream  is  !  I 
seem  to  overhear  the  last  words,  the  last  thoughts  of  a 
mother  :  "  Dear  children,  you  know  I  love  you.  Provision 
has  been  made.  I  should  be  of  little  use  to  you  any  longer. 
How  pleasant  to  look  out  of  that  window  into  the  park  ! 
Be  sure  they  don't  forget  to  give  Pup  some  meat  with  his 
dog-biscuit."  It  is  all  very  simple,  very  much  repressed, 
the  pattering  echo  of  daily  words.  Death,  it  is  felt,  is  not 
important.  What  matters  is  the  part  we  have  played  in 
the  world,  or  may  still  play  there  by  our  influence.  We  are 
not  going  to  a  melodramatic  Last  Judgement.  We  are 
shrinking  into  ourselves,  into  the  seed  we  came  from,  into  a 
long  winter's  sleep.  Perhaps  in  another  springtime  we  may 
revive  and  come  again  to  the  light  somewhere,  among  those 
sweet  flowers,  those  dear  ones  we  have  lost.  That  is  God's 
secret.  We  have  tried  to  do  right  here.  If  there  is  any 
Beyond,  we  shall  try  to  do  right  there  also. 


IN  many  an  English  village  there  is  nowadays  a  calvary. 
The  novel  object  merges  with  wonderful  ease  into  the 
landscape,  and  one  would  almost  think  it  had  always  been 
there.  The  protecting  wooden  eaves  have  already  lost 
their  rigidity  and  their  varnish  ;  the  crucifix  no  longer 
reminds  one  of  the  shop-window  from  which  it  came  ;  it 
does  not  suggest  popish  aggression  nor  the  affectations  of 
ritualism.  Flecks  of  sunlight  play  upon  it  familiarly,  as 
upon  the  wayside  stones,  and  it  casts  its  shadow  across  the 
common  like  any  natural  tree.  The  flowers  in  the  pots 
before  it  have  withered,  they  droop  half  hidden  in  the 
ivy  that  has  overgrown  them.  Even  the  scroll  of  names 
has  modified  its  official  ghastliness — all  those  newly  dead 
obscure  souls  starkly  ticketed  and  numbered ;  the  tragic 


page  has  got  somewhat  weather-stained  and  illegible,  and 
is  curling  up  at  the  edges ;  it  has  become  a  dead  leaf. 
Decidedly  the  war-shrine  is  at  home  in  the  scene.  It  is  a 
portion  of  that  unspoken  truth  which  every  one  carries 
about  with  him,  and  the  people  seem  again  to  breathe 
freely  under  the  shadow  of  the  cross. 

What  does  the  cross  signify  ?  We  are  told  that  Christ 
died  to  save  us,  and  various  analogies,  legal,  sentimental, 
or  chivalrous,  are  put  forward  to  make  that  notion  accept 
able.  I  respect  the  sentiments  of  duty  and  devotion  which 
this  doctrine  of  legal  redemption  can  inspire  ;  they  express 
readiness  to  do  well,  and  in  a  certain  moral  sense,  as  Hamlet 
says,  the  readiness  is  all ;  yet  it  is  a  conception  of  religion 
borrowed  from  ancient  lawyers  and  rhetoricians,  a  sort  of 
celestial  diplomacy.  The  cross  can  mean  something  else ; 
it  can  symbolize  poetically  a  general  truth  about  existence 
and  experience.  This  truth  is  the  same  which  the  Indians 
express  more  philosophically  by  saying  that  life  is  an 
illusion — an  expression  which  is  itself  figurative  and 
poetical.  It  is  certainly  not  an  illusion  that  I  have  now  the 
experience  of  being  alive  and  of  finding  myself  surrounded, 
at  least  in  appearance,  by  a  tolerably  tractable  world, 
material  and  social.  It  is  not  an  illusion  that  this  experience 
is  now  filling  me  with  mixed  and  trooping  feelings.  In 
calling  existence  an  illusion,  the  Indian  sages  meant  that 
it  is  fugitive  and  treacherous  :  the  images  and  persons  that 
diversify  it  are  unsubstantial,  and  myself  the  most  shifting 
and  unsubstantial  of  all.  The  substance  and  fine  mechanism 
which  I  do  not  doubt  underlie  this  changing  apparition  are 
out  of  scale  with  my  imagined  units,  and  (beyond  a  certain 
point)  out  of  sympathy  with  my  interests.  Life  is  an 
illusion  if  we  trust  it,  but  it  is  a  truth  if  we  do  not  trust  it ; 
and  this  discovery  is  perhaps  better  symbolized  by  the  cross 
than  by  the  Indian  doctrine  of  illusion.  I  will  not  say 
that  not  to  exist  would  not  be  better ;  existence  may  be 
condemned  by  the  very  respectable  criterion  of  excellence 
or  "  reality  "  which  demands  in  all  things  permanence  and 
safety  ;  but  so  long  as  we  exist,  however  precariously  or 
"  unreally,"  I  think  it  the  part  of  wisdom  to  find  a  way 
of  living  well,  rather  than  merely  to  deprecate  living.  The 
cross  is  certainly  a  most  violent  image,  putting  suffering 


and  death  before  us  with  a  rude  emphasis ;  and  I  can 
understand  the  preference  of  many  for  the  serene  Buddha, 
lifting  the  finger  of  meditation  and  profound  counsel,  and 
freeing  the  soul  by  the  sheer  force  of  knowledge  and  of 
sweet  reason.  Nevertheless,  I  am  not  sorry  to  have  been 
born  a  Christian  :  for  the  soul  cannot  be  really  freed  except 
^by  ceasing  to  live  ;  and  it  is  whilst  we  still  exist,  not  after 
we  are  dead  to  existence,  that  we  need  counsel.  It  is  there 
fore  the  crucified  spirit,  not  the  liberated  spirit,  that  is  our 
true  master. 

Certainly  the  spirit  is  crucified,  first  by  being  incarcerated 
in  the  flesh  at  all,  and  then  again,  after  it  has  identified 
itself  with  the  will  of  the  flesh,  by  being  compelled  to 
renounce  it.  Yet  both  this  painful  incarnation  and  this 
painful  redemption  have  something  marvellously  sweet 
about  them.  The  world  which  torments  us  is  truly  beautiful ; 
indeed,  that  is  one  of  its  ways  of  tormenting  us ;  and  we 
are  not  wrong  in  loving,  but  only  in  appropriating  it.  The 
surrender  of  this  untenable  claim  to  exist  and  to  possess 
the  beautiful,  is  in  its  turn  beautiful  and  good.  Christ 
loved  the  world,  in  an  erotic  sense  in  which  Buddha  did 
not  love  it  :  and  the  world  has  loved  the  cross  as  it  can 
never  love  the  Bo-tree.  So  that  out  of  the  very  entangle 
ments  of  the  spirit  come  marvellous  compensations  to  the 
spirit,  which  in  its  liberation  leave  it  still  human  and 
friendly  to  all  that  it  gives  up.  I  do  not  at  all  accept  the 
morality  of  the  Indians  in  so  far  as  it  denies  the  values  of 
illusion  ;  the  only  evil  in  illusion  is  that  it  deceives  ;  there 
is  beauty  in  its  being.  True  insight,  true  mercy,  is  tender 
and  sensitive  to  the  infinite  pulsations  of  ignorance  and 
passion  :  it  is  not  deceived  by  the  prattle  of  the  child,  but 
is  not  offended  by  it.  The  knowledge  that  existence  can 
manifest  but  cannot  retain  the  good  reconciles  us  at  once 
to  living  and  to  dying.  That,  I  think,  is  the  wisdom  of  the 

There  is  a  folly  of  the  cross  also,  when  the  knowledge 
or  half -knowledge  that  life  must  be  suffering,  until  it  is 
cleared  of  the  love  of  life,  erects  suffering  into  an  end  in 
itself,  which  is  insane  and  monstrous.  I  suspect,  however, 
that  in  asceticism  as  actually  preached  and  practised  there 
is  less  of  this  idolatry  of  suffering  than  the  outsider  imagines, 


who  lying  amid  his  cushions  severely  reproves  those  who 
indulge  in  a  penance.  There  is  an  asceticism  which  may 
be  loved  for  its  simplicity,  its  clean  poverty  and  cold  water, 
hygienic  like  mountain  air  ;  but  flagellations  and  blood  and 
night-long  wailings  are  not  an  end  in  themselves  ;  no  saint 
expects  to  carry  them  with  him  into  heaven  ;  at  best  they 
are  a  homoeopathic  cure  for  the  lusts  of  the  flesh.  Their 
purpose,  if  not  their  effect,  is  freedom  and  peace.  I  wish 
Protestants,  who  find  their  ascetic  discipline  in  hard  work, 
were  equally  clear  about  its  object.  From  the  worship  of 
instrumentalities,  whether  penitential  or  worldly,  the  cross 
redeems  us  :  in  draining  the  cup  of  suffering  it  transcends 

(suffering,  and  in  being  raised  above  the  earth  it  lifts  us  out 
of  it.  My  instinct  is  to  go  and  stand  under  the  cross,  with 
the  monks  and  the  crusaders,  far  away  from  these  Jews  and 
Protestants  who  adore  the  world  and  who  govern  it. 

There  is  a  mystical  folly  also  among  the  Indians,  when 
they  assign  a  positive  bliss  to  pure  Being  ;  this,  too,  is 
substance-worship.  Identity  with  substance  is  deemed 
blessed  because  beneath  the  vicissitudes  of  illusion,  substance 
remains  always  solid,  safe,  and  real.  Certainly  substance, 
if  there  is  such  a  thing,  must  be  safe,  real,  and  solid  ;  for  we 
understand  by  substance  whatever  is  constant  in  change. 
Hence  the  desire  to  escape  from  illusion  and  from  suffering 
hails  a  return  to  the  indistinction  of  substance  as  a  positive 
salvation  ;  remember  that  you  are  dust,  return  to  the 
infinite  from  which  you  came,  and  nothing  ominous  can 
threaten  you  any  more,  the  dust  and  the  infinite  are  safe. 
But  changeless  substance,  being  unconscious,  cannot  be 
blissful ;  the  attribution  of  divine  bliss  to  it  is  an  illusion 
of  contrast,  and,  like  so  much  philosophy,  mere  rhetoric 
turned  into  a  revelation.  What  verbal  mirage  is  this,  to 
see  happiness  in  fixity  ?  Substance  may  be  conceived 
logically,  and  then  it  means  pure  Being ;  or  it  may  be 
conceived  psychologically,  and  then  it  means  absorption 
in  the  sense  of  pure  Being  ;  or  it  may  be  conceived 
physically  as  matter,  a  name  for  the  constant  quantities  in 
things  that  are  traceably  transformed  into  one  another. 
Pure  Being  and  the  contemplation  of  pure  Being  seem  at 
first  sight  very  different  from  matter ;  but  they  may  be  a 
dramatic  impersonation  of  matter,  viewed  from  the  inside, 


and  felt  as  blind  intensity  and  solidified  ignorance.  No  one 
calls  matter  blessed  when  viewed  externally,  although  it  is 
then  that  its  best  qualities,  its  fertility  and  order,  come 
into  view  :  yet  half  mankind  have  fallen  to  worshipping 
matter  in  envy  of  its  internal  condition,  and  to  trying  to 
fall  back  into  it,  because  it  is  the  negation  (and  yet  the 
cause  !)  of  all  their  troubles.  The  idea  of  an  intense 
nothing  hypnotizes  them,  it  is  the  sovereign  anaesthetic  ; 
and  they  forget  that  this  intense  nothing,  by  its  fruitfulness 
in  the  realm  of  illusion,  has  generated  all  their  desires, 
including  this  desperate  desire  to  be  nothing,  which  turns 
that  nothingness,  by  a  last  illusion,  into  a  good. 

If  to  be  saved  were  merely  to  cease,  we  should  all  be 
saved  by  a  little  waiting  :  and  I  say  this  advisedly,  without 
forgetting  that  the  Indians  threaten  us  with  reincarnation. 
It  is  a  myth  to  which  I  have  no  objection,  because  only 
selfishness  persuades  me  that  if  I  am  safe,  all  is  well. 
What  difference  does  it  make  in  reality  whether  the  suffer 
ing  and  ignominy  of  life  fall  to  what  I  call  myself  or  to  what 
I  call  another  man  ?  The  only  trouble  is  that  the  moral 
redemption  which  is  proposed  to  us  as  a  means  of  safety 
instead  of  death,  touches  the  individual  only,  just  as  death 
does.  Christ  and  Buddha  are  called  saviours  of  the 
world  ;  I  think  it  must  be  in  irony,  for  the  world  is  just 
as  much  in  need  of  salvation  as  ever.  Death  and  insight 
and  salvation  are  personal.  The  world  springs  up  un- 
regenerate  every  morning  in  spite  of  all  the  Tabors  and 
Calvaries  of  yesterday.  What  can  save  the  world,  without 
destroying  it,  is  self-knowledge  on  the  part  of  the  world, 
not  of  course  reflective  self-knowledge  (for  the  world  is  not 
an  animal  that  can  think)  but  such  a  regimen  and  such  a 
philosophy  established  in  society  as  shall  recognize  truly 
what  the  world  is,  and  what  happiness  is  possible  in  it. 
The  force  that  has  launched 'me  into  this  dream  of  life 
does  not  care  what  turns  my  dream  takes  nor  how  long 
it  troubles  me.  Nature  denies  at  every  moment,  not 
indeed  that  I  am  troubled  and  dreaming,  but  that  there 
are  any  natural  units  like  my  visions,  or  anything  anomalous 
in  what  I  hate,  or  final  in  what  I  love.  Under  these  circum 
stances,  what  is  the  part  of  wisdom  ?  To  dream  with  one 
eye  open  ;  to  be  detached  from  the  world  without  hostility 


to  it ;  to  welcome  fugitive  beauties  and  pity  fugitive 
sufferings  without  forgetting  for  a  moment  how  fugitive 
they  are  ;  and  not  to  lay  up  treasures,  except  in  heaven. 

How  charming  is  divine  philosophy,  when  it  is  really 
divine,  when  it  descends  to  earth  from  a  higher  sphere,  and 
loves  the  things  of  earth  without  needing  or  collecting 
them  !  What  the  gay  Aristippus  said  of  his  mistress : 
I  possess,  I  am  not  possessed,  every  spirit  should  say  of  an 
experience  that  ruffles  it  like  a  breeze  playing  on  the 
summer  sea.  A  thousand  ships  sail  over  it  in  vain,  and  the 
worst  of  tempests  is  in  a  teapot.  This  once  acknowledged 
and  inwardly  digested,  life  and  happiness  can  honestly 
begin.  Nature  is  innocently  fond  of  puffing  herself  out, 
spreading  her  peacock  feathers,  and  saying,  What  a  fine 
bird  am  I !  And  so  she  is ;  to  rave  against  this  vanity 
would  be  to  imitate  it.  On  the  contrary,  the  secret  of  a 
merry  carnival  is  that  Lent  is  at  hand.  Having  virtually 
renounced  our  follies,  we  are  for  the  first  time  able  to 
enjoy  them  with  a  free  heart  in  their  ephemeral  purity. 
When  laughter  is  humble,  when  it  is  not  based  on  self- 
esteem,  it  is  wiser  than  tears.  Conformity  is  wiser  than 
hot  denials,  tolerance  wiser  than  priggishness  and 
puritanism.  It  is  not  what  earnest  people  renounce  that 
,  .makes  me  pity  them,  it  is  what  they  work  for.  No  possible 
j,  reform  will  make  existence  adorable  or  fundamentally 
just.  Modern  England  has  worked  too  hard  and  cared 
i  too  much  ;  so  much  tension  is  hysterical  and  degrading  ; 
nothing  is  ever  gained  by  it  worth  half  what  it  spoils. 
Wealth  is  dismal  and  poverty  cruel  unless  both  are  festive. 
There  is  no  cure  for  birth  and  death  save  to  enjoy  the 
interval.  The  easier  attitudes  which  seem  more  frivolous 
are  at  bottom  infinitely  more  spiritual  and  profound  than 
the  tense  attitudes  ;  they  are  nearer  to  understanding 
and  to  renunciation ;  they  are  nearer  to  the  cross.  Perhaps 
if  England  had  remained  Catholic  it  might  have  remained 
merry  ;  it  might  still  dare,  as  Shakespeare  dared,  to  be 
utterly  tragic  and  also  frankly  and  humbly  gay.  The 
world  has  been  too  much  with  it ;  Hebraic  religion  and 
German  philosophy  have  confirmed  it  in  a  deliberate  and 
agonized  worldliness.  They  have  sanctioned,  in  the  hard 
working  and  reforming  part  of  the  middle  classes,  an 



unqualified  respect  for  prosperity  and  success ;  life  is 
judged  with  all  the  blindness  of  life  itself.  There  is  no 
moral  freedom.  In  so  far  as  minds  are  absorbed  in  business 
or  in  science  they  all  inevitably  circle  about  the  same 
objects,  and  take  part  in  the  same  events,  combining  their 
thoughts  and  efforts  in  the  same  "  world's  work."  The 
world,  therefore,  invades  and  dominates  them  ;  they  lose 
their  independence  and  almost  their  distinction  from  one 
another.  Their  philosophy  accordingly  only  exaggerates 
a  little  when  it  maintains  that  their  individual  souls  are 
all  manifestation  of  a  single  spirit,  the  Earth-spirit.  They 
hardly  have  any  souls  they  can  call  their  own,  that  may 
be  saved  out  of  the  world,  or  that  may  see  and  judge  the 
world  from  above. 

Death  is  the  background  of  life  much  as  empty  space 
is  that  of  the  stars  ;  it  is  a  deeper  thing  always  lying 
behind,  like  the  black  sky  behind  the  blue.  In  the  realm 
of  existence  death  is  indeed  nothing ;  only  a  word  for 
something  negative  and  merely  notional — the  fact  that 
each  life  has  limits  in  time  and  is  absent  beyond  them. 
But  in  the  realm  of  truth,  as  things  are  eternally,  life  is  a 
little  luminous  meteor  in  an  infinite  abyss  of  nothingness, 
a  rocket  fired  on  a  dark  night ;  and  to  see  life,  and  to 
value  it,  from  the  point  of  view  of  death  is  to  see  and  to 
value  it  truly.  The  foot  of  the  cross — I  dare  not  say  the 
cross  itself — is  a  good  station  from  which  to  survey  exist 
ence.  In  the  greatest  griefs  there  is  a  tragic  calm  ;  the 
fury  of  the  will  is  exhausted,  and  our  thoughts  rise  to 
another  level ;  as  the  shrill  delights  and  the  black  sorrows 
of  childhood  are  impossible  in  old  age.  People  sometimes 
make  crosses  of  flowers  or  of  gold  ;  and  I  like  to  see  the 
enamelled  crucifix  richly  surrounded  with  scrolls,  and 
encrusted  with  jewels ;  without  a  touch  of  this  pagan 
instinct  the  religion  of  the  cross  would  not  be  healthy  nor 
just.  In  the  skirts  of  Mount  Calvary  lies  the  garden  of 
the  resurrection  :  I  do  not  refer  to  any  melodramatic 
resurrection,  such  as  is  pictured  in  Jewish  and  Christian 
legend,  but  to  one  which  actually  followed  quietly,  sweetly, 
in  the  light  of  a  purer  day,  in  the  cloister,  in  the  home,  in 
the  regenerate  mind.  After  renouncing  the  world,  the  soul 
may  find  the  world  more  amiable,  and  may  live  in  it  with 


a  smile  and  a  mystic  doubt  and  one  foot  in  eternity.  Vanity 
is  innocent  when  recognized  to  be  vain,  and  is  no  longer 
a  disgrace  to  the  spirit.  The  happiness  of  wisdom  may 
at  first  seem  autumnal,  and  the  shadow  of  the  cross  the 
shadow  of  death  ;  but  it  is  healing  shadow  ;  and  presently, 
in  the  hollow  where  the  cross  was  set,  the  scent  of  violets 
surprises  us,  and  the  crocuses  peep  out  amongst  the 
thorns.  The  dark  background  which  death  supplies  brings 
out  the  tender  colours  of  life  in  all  their  purity.  Far  be  it 
from  me  to  suggest  that  existence  is  the  better  because 
non-existence  precedes  and  follows  it ;  certainly,  if  man 
was  immortal  his  experience  could  not  include  tradition, 
parentage,  childhood,  love,  nor  old  age  ;  nevertheless,  from 
the  point  of  view  of  both  bodily  and  intellectual  instincts 
immortality  would  be  far  better.  But  since,  as  a  matter 
of  fact,  birth  and  death  actually  occur,  and  our  brief 
career  is  surrounded  by  vacancy,  it  is  far  better  to  live  in 
the  light  of  the  tragic  fact,  rather  than  to  forget  or  deny 
it,  and  build  everything  on  a  fundamental  lie.  Death 
does  not  say  to  life  that  life  is  nothing,  or  does  not  exist, 
or  is  an  illusion  ;  that  would  be  wild  talk,  and  would  show 
that  the  inspiration  we  had  drawn  from  death  was  as  little 
capable  of  doing  justice  to  life,  as  life  itself  is,  when  mindless, 
of  discovering  death,  or  learning  anything  from  it.  What 
the  environing  presence  of  death  teaches  is  merely  that 
life  has  such  and  such  limits  and  such  and  such  a  course, 
whether  it  reflects  on  its  course  or  not,  whether  it  recognizes 
its  limits  or  ignores  them.  Death  can  do  nothing  to  our 
lives  except  to  frame  them  in,  to  show  them  off  with  a 
broad  margin  of  darkness  and  silence  ;  so  that  to  live  in 
the  shadow  of  death  and  of  the  cross  is  to  spread  a  large 
nimbus  of  peace  around  our  littleness. 


WHAT  a  strange  pleasure  there  is  sometimes  in  seeing 
what  we  expected,  or  hearing  what  we  knew  was  a  fact ! 
The  dream  then  seems  really  to  hold  together  and  truth 


to  be  positively  true.  The  bells  that  announced  the 
Armistice  brought  me  no  news  ;  a  week  sooner  or  a  week 
later  they  had  to  ring.  Certainly  if  the  purpose  of  the 
war  had  been  conquest  or  victory,  nobody  had  achieved 
it ;  but  the  purposes  of  things,  and  especially  of  wars, 
are  imputed  to  them  rhetorically,  the  impulses  at  work 
being  too  complicated  and  changeful  to  be  easily  surveyed  ; 
and  in  this  case,  for  the  French  and  the  English,  the  moving 
impulse  had  been  defence  ;  they  had  been  sustained  through 
incredible  trials  by  the  awful  necessity  of  not  yielding. 
That  strain  had  now  been  relaxed  ;  and  as  the  conduct 
of  men  is  determined  by  present  forces  and  not  by  future 
advantages,  they  could  have  no  heart  to  fight  on.  It 
seemed  enough  to  them  that  the  wanton  blow  had  been 
parried,  that  the  bully  had  begged  for  mercy.  It  was 
amusing  to  hear  him  now.  He  said  that  further  bloodshed 
this  time  would  be  horrible  ;  his  tender  soul  longed  to 
get  home  safely,  to  call  it  quits,  and  to  take  a  long  breath 
and  plan  a  new  combination  before  the  next  bout.  His 
collapse  had  been  evident  for  days  and  months  ;  yet 
these  bells  that  confirmed  the  fact  were  pleasant  to  hear. 
Those  mean  little  flags,  hung  out  here  and  there  by  private 
initiative  in  the  streets  of  Oxford,  had  almost  put  on  a 
look  of  triumph  ;  the  very  sunlight  and  brisk  autumnal 
air  seemed  to  have  heard  the  tidings,  and  to  invite  the 
world  to  begin  to  live  again  at  ease.  Certainly  many  a 
sad  figure  and  many  a  broken  soul  must  slink  henceforth 
on  crutches,  a  mere  survival ;  but  they,  too,  will  die  off 
gradually.  The  grass  soon  grows  over  a  grave. 

So  musing,  I  suddenly  heard  a  once  familiar  strain, 
now  long  despised  and  out  of  favour,  the  old  tune  of 
Tipperary.  In  a  coffee-house  frequented  at  that  hour 
some  wounded  officers  from  the  hospital  at  Somerville 
were  singing  it,  standing  near  the  bar  ;  they  were  breaking 
all  rules,  both  of  surgeons  and  of  epicures,  and  were  having 
champagne  in  the  morning.  And  good  reason  they  had 
for  it.  They  were  reprieved,  they  should  never  have  to 
go  back  to  the  front,  their  friends — such  as  were  left — 
would  all  come  home  alive.  Instinctively  the  old  grumb 
ling,  good-natured,  sentimental  song,  which  they  used  to 
sing  when  they  first  joined,  came  again  into  their  minds. 


It  had  been  indeed  a  long,  long  way  to  Tipperary.  But 
they  had  trudged  on  and  had  come  round  full  circle ; 
they  were  in  Tipperary  at  last. 

I  wonder  what  they  think  Tipperary  means — for  this 
is  a  mystical  song.  Probably  they  are  willing  to  leave  it 
vague,  as  they  do  their  notions  of  honour  or  happiness  or 
heaven.  Their  soldiering  is  over  ;  they  remember,  with 
a  strange  proud  grief,  their  comrades  who  died  to  make 
this  day  possible,  hardly  believing  that  it  ever  would 
come  ;  they  are  overjoyed,  yet  half  ashamed,  to  be  safe 
themselves  ;  they  forget  their  wounds  ;  they  see  a  green 
vista  before  them,  a  jolly,  busy,  sporting,  loving  life  in 
the  old  familiar  places.  Everything  will  go  on,  they 
fancy,  as  if  nothing  had  happened. 

Good  honest  unguided  creatures  !  They  are  hardly  out 
of  the  fog  of  war  when  they  are  lost  in  the  fog  of  peace. 
/'If  experience  could  teach  mankind  anything,  how  different 
i  our  morals  and  our  politics  would  be,  how  clear,  how 
tolerant,  how  steady  !  If  we  knew  ourselves,  our  conduct 
at  all  times  would  be  absolutely  decided  and  consistent ; 
and  a  pervasive  sense  of  vanity  and  humour  would  disinfect 
all  our  passions,  if  we  knew  the  world.  As  it  is,  we  live 
experimentally,  moodily,  in  the  dark  ;  each  generation 
breaks  its  egg-shell  with  the  same  haste  and  assurance 
as  the  last,  pecks  at  the  same  indigestible  pebbles,  dreams 
the  same  dreams,  or  others  just  as  absurd,  and  if  it  hears 
anything  of  what  former  men  have  learned  by  experience, 
it  corrects  their  maxims  by  its  first  impressions,  and  rushes 
down  any  untrodden  path  which  it  finds  alluring,  to  die 
in  its  own  way,  or  become  wise  too  late  and  to  no  purpose. 
These  young  men  are  no  rustics,  they  are  no  fools  ;  and 
yet  they  have  passed  through  the  most  terrible  ordeal, 
they  have  seen  the  mad  heart  of  this  world  riven  and  un 
masked,  they  have  had  long  vigils  before  battle,  long  nights 
tossing  with  pain,  in  which  to  meditate  on  the  spectacle  ; 
and  yet  they  have  learned  nothing.  The  young  barbarians 
want  to  be  again  at  play.  If  it  were  to  be  only  cricket  or 
boating,  it  would  be  innocent  enough ;  but  they  are 
going  to  gamble  away  their  lives  and  their  country,  taking 
their  chances  in  the  lottery  of  love  and  of  business  and 
of  politics,  with  a  sporting  chance  thrown  in,  perhaps, 


of  heaven.  They  are  going  to  shut  out  from  view  every 
thing  except  their  topmost  instincts  and  easy  habits,  and 
to  trust  to  luck.  Yet  the  poor  fellows  think  they  are 
safe  !  They  think  that  the  war — perhaps  the  last  of  all 
wars — is  over  ! 

Only  the  dead  are  safe  ;  only  the  dead  have  seen  the 
end  of  war.  Not  that  non-existence  deserves  to  be  called 
peace  ;  it  is  only  by  an  illusion  of  contrast  and  a  pathetic 
fallacy  that  we  are  tempted  to  call  it  so.  The  church  has 
a  poetical  and  melancholy  prayer,  that  the  souls  of  the 
faithful  departed  may  rest  in  peace.  If  in  that  sigh  there 
lingers  any  fear  that,  when  a  tomb  is  disturbed,  the  un 
happy  ghost  is  doomed  to  walk  more  often  abroad,  the 
fear  is  mad ;  and  if  it  merely  expresses  the  hope  that 
dead  men's  troubles  are  over,  the  wish  is  superfluous  ; 
but  perhaps  we  may  gloss  the  old  superstition,  and  read 
into  it  the  rational  aspiration  that  all  souls  in  other  spheres, 
or  in  the  world  to  come  upon  earth,  might  learn  to  live 
at  peace  with  God  and  with  things.  That  would  be  some 
thing  worth  praying  for,  but  I  am  afraid  it  is  asking  too 
much.  God — I  mean  the  sum  of  all  possible  good — is 
immutable  ;  to  make  our  peace  with  him  it  is  we,  not 
he,  that  must  change.  We  should  need  to  discover,  and 
to  pursue  singly,  the  happiness  proper  to  our  nature, 
including  the  accidents  of  race  and  sex  and  the  very  real 
advantages  of  growing  old  and  of  not  living  for  ever ; 
and  we  should  need  to  respect  without  envying  all  other 
forms  of  the  good.  As  to  the  world  of  existence,  it  is 
certainly  fluid,  and  by  judicious  pressure  we  may  coax 
some  parts  of  it  into  greater  conformity  with  our  wills  ; 
yet  it  is  so  vast,  and  crawls  through  such  ponderous, 
insidious  revolutions,  all  so  blind  and  so  inimical  to  one 
another,  that  in  order  to  live  at  peace  with  things  we 
should  need  to  acquire  a  marvellous  plasticity,  or  a  splendid 
indifference.  We  should  have  to  make  peace  with  the  fact 
of  war.  It  is  the  stupid  obstinacy  of  our  self-love  that 
produces  tragedy,  and  makes  us  angry  with  the  world. 
Free  life  has  the  spirit  of  comedy.  It  rejoices  in  the 
seasonable  beauty  of  each  new  thing,  and  laughs  at  its 
decay,  covets  no  possessions,  demands  no  agreement,  and 
strives  to  sustain  nothing  in  being  except  a  gallant  spirit 


of  courage  and  truth,  as  each  fresh  adventure  may  re 
new  it. 

This  gallant  spirit  of  courage  and  truth,  you  young 
men  had  it  in  those  early  days  when  you  first  sang 
Tipperary ;  have  you  it  still,  I  wonder,  when  you  repeat 
the  song  ?  Some  of  you,  no  doubt.  I  have  seen  in  some 
of  you  the  smile  that  makes  light  of  pain,  the  sturdy 
humility  that  accepts  mutilation  and  faces  disability 
without  repining  or  shame ;  armless  and  legless  men  are 
still  God's  creatures,  and  even  if  you  cannot  see  the  sun 
you  can  bask  in  it,  and  there  is  joy  on  earth — perhaps  the 
deepest  and  most  primitive  joy — even  in  that.  But  others 
of  you,  though  you  were  driven  to  the  war  by  contagious 
example,  or  by  force,  are  natural  cowards  ;  you  are  perhaps 
superior  persons,  intellectual  snobs,  and  are  indignant 
at  having  been  interrupted  in  your  important  studies  and 
made  to  do  useless  work.  You  are  disgusted  at  the 
stupidity  of  all  the  generals,  and  whatever  the  Govern 
ment  does  is  an  outrage  to  your  moral  sense.  You  were 
made  sick  at  the  thought  of  the  war  before  you  went  to 
it,  and  you  are  sicker  of  it  now.  You  are  pacifists,  and  you 
suspect  that  the  Germans,  who  were  not  pacifists,  were 
right  after  all.  I  notice  you  are  not  singing  Tipperary 
this  morning  ;  you  are  too  angry  to  be  glad,  and  you 
wish  it  to  be  understood  that  you  can't  endure  such  a 
vulgar  air.  You  are  willing,  however,  to  sip  your  cham 
pagne  with  the  rest ;  in  hospital  you  seem  to  have  come 
forward  a  little  socially  ;  but  you  find  the  wine  too  dry 
or  too  sweet,  and  you  are  making  a  wry  face  at  it. 

Ah,  my  delicate  friends,  if  the  soul  of  a  philosopher  may 
venture  to  address  you,  let  me  whisper  this  counsel  in  your 
ears  :  Reserve  a  part  of  your  wrath  ;  you  have  not  seen 
the  worst  yet.  You  suppose  that  this  war  has  been  a 
criminal  blunder  and  an  exceptional  horror  ;  you  imagine 
that  before  long  reason  will  prevail,  and  all  these  inferior 
people  that  govern  the  world  will  be  swept  aside,  and  your 
own  party  will  reform  everything  and  remain  always  in 
office.  You  are  mistaken.  This  war  has  given  you  your 
first  glimpse  of  the  ancient,  fundamental,  normal  state  of 
the  world,  your  first  taste  of  reality.  It  should  teach  you 
to  dismiss  all  your  philosophies  of  progress  or  of  a  governing 


reason  as  the  babble  of  dreamers  who  walk  through  one 
world  mentally  beholding  another.  I  don't  mean  that  you 
or  they  are  fools  ;  heaven  forbid.  You  have  too  much 
mind.  It  is  easy  to  behave  very  much  like  other  people 
and  yet  be  possessed  inwardly  by  a  narcotic  dream.  I  am 
sure  the  flowers — and  you  resemble  flowers  yourselves, 
though  a  bit  wilted — if  they  speculate  at  all,  construct 
idealisms  which,  like  your  own,  express  their  inner  sensi 
bility  and  their  experience  of  the  weather,  without  much 
resemblance  to  the  world  at  large.  Their  thoughts,  like 
yours,  are  all  positings  and  deductions  and  asseverations 
of  what  ought  to  be,  whilst  the  calm  truth  is  marching  on 
unheeded  outside.  No  great  harm  ensues,  because  the 
flowers  are  rooted  in  their  places  and  adjusted  to  the 
prevailing  climate.  It  doesn't  matter  what  they  think. 
You,  too,  in  your  lodgings  in  Chelsea,  quite  as  in  Lhassa  or 
in  Mount  Athos,  may  live  and  die  happy  in  your  painted 
cells.  It  is  the  primitive  and  the  ultimate  office  of  the 
mind  to  supply  such  a  sanctuary.  But  if  you  are  ever 
driven  again  into  the  open,  if  the  course  of  events  should 
be  so  rapid,  that  you  could  catch  the  drift  of  it  in  your 
short  life  (since  you  despise  tradition),  then  you  must 
prepare  for  a  ruder  shock.  There  is  eternal  war  in  nature, 
a  war  in  which  every  cause  is  ultimately  lost  and  every 
nation  destroyed.  War  is  but  resisted  change  ;  and  change 
must  needs  be  resisted  so  long  as  the  organism  it  would 
destroy  retains  any  vitality.  Peace  itself  means  discipline 
at  home  and  invulnerability  abroad — two  forms  of  perma 
nent  virtual  war ;  peace  requires  so  vigorous  an  internal 
regimen  that  every  germ  of  dissolution  or  infection 
shall  be  repelled  before  it  reaches  the  public  soul.  This 
war  has  been  a  short  one,  and  its  ravages  slight  in 
comparison  with  what  remains  standing  :  a  severe  war  is 
one  in  which  the  entire  manhood  of  a  nation  is  destroyed, 
its  cities  razed,  and  its  women  and  children  driven  into 
slavery.  In  this  instance  the  slaughter  has  been  greater, 
perhaps,  only  because  modern  populations  are  so  enormous  ; 
the  disturbance  has  been  acute  only  because  the  modern 
industrial  system  is  so  dangerously  complex  and  unstable ; 
and  the  expense  seems  prodigious  because  we  were  so 
extravagantly  rich.  Our  society  was  a  sleepy  glutton  who 


thought  himself  immortal  and  squealed  inexpressibly,  like 
a  stuck  pig,  at  the  first  prick  of  the  sword.  An  ancient  city 
would  have  thought  this  war,  or  one  relatively  as  costly, 
only  a  normal  incident ;  and  certainly  the  Germans  will 
not  regard  it  otherwise. 

Existence,  being  a  perpetual  generation,  involves  as 
piration,  and  its  aspiration  envelops  it  in  an  atmosphere 
of  light,  the  joy  and  the  beauty  of  being,  which  is  the  living 
heaven  ;  but  for  the  same  reason  existence,  in  its  texture, 
involves  a  perpetual  and  a  living  hell — the  conflict  and 
mutual  hatred  of  its  parts,  each  endeavouring  to  devour  , 
its  neighbour's  substance  in  the  vain  effort  to  live  for  ever.  / 
Now,  the  greater  part  of  most  men's  souls  dwells  in  this 
hell,  and  ends  there.  One  of  their  chief  torments  is  the 
desire  to  live  without  dying — continual  death  being  a  part 
of  the  only  possible  and  happy  life.  We  wish  to  exist 
materially,  and  yet  resent  the  plastic  stress,  the  very  force 
of  material  being,  which  is  daily  creating  and  destroying 
us.  Certainly  war  is  hell,  as  you,  my  fair  friends,  are  fond 
of  repeating  ;  but  so  is  rebellion  against  war.  To  live  well 
you  must  be  victorious.  It  is  with  war  as  with  the  passion 
of  love,  which  is  a  war  of  another  kind  :  war  at  first  against 
the  beloved  for  favour  and  possession  ;  war  afterwards 
against  the  rest  of  the  world  for  the  beloved's  sake.  Often 
love,  too,  is  a  torment  and  shameful ;  but  it  has  its  laughing 
triumphs,  and  the  attempt  to  eliminate  it  is  a  worse  torture, 
and  more  degrading.  When  was  a  coward  at  peace  ? 
Homer,  who  was  a  poet  of  war,  did  not  disguise  its  horrors 
nor  its  havoc,  but  he  knew  it  was  the  shield  of  such  happiness 
as  is  possible  on  earth.  If  Hector  had  not  scoured  the  plain 
in  his  chariot,  Paris  could  not  have  piped  upon  the  slopes 
of  Ida,  nor  sported  with  his  sheep  and  his  goddesses  upon 
the  green.  The  merchants  of  Crete  or  Phoenicia  could  not 
have  drawn  up  their  black  keels  upon  the  beach,  if  the  high 
walls  of  Ilium  had  not  cast  their  protecting  shadow  on  their 
bales  of  merchandise,  their  bags  of  coin,  and  their  noisy 
bargaining.  When  Hector  was  no  more  and  the  walls  were 
a  heap  of  dust,  all  the  uses  of  peace  vanished  also  :  ruin 
and  utter  meanness  came  to  inhabit  that  land,  and  still 
inhabit  it.  Nor  is  war,  which  makes  peace  possible,  without 
occasions  in  which  a  free  spirit,  not  too  much  attached  to 


existence,  may  come  into  its  own.  Homer  shows  us  how 
his  heroes  could  gather  even  from  battle  a  certain  harvest 
of  tenderness  and  nobility,  and  how  above  their  heads,  half 
seen  through  the  clouds  of  dust  and  of  pain,  flew  the  winged 
chariots  of  the  gods,  and  music  mingled  with  their  banquet. 
Be  sad  if  you  will,  there  is  always  reason  for  sadness, 
since  the  good  which  the  world  brings  forth  is  so  fugitive 
and  bought  at  so  great  a  price  ;  but  be  brave.  If  you 
think  happiness  worth  enjoying,  think  it  worth  defending. 
Nothing  you  can  lose  by  dying  is  half  so  precious  as  the 
readiness  to  die,  which  is  man's  charter  of  nobility ;  life 
would  not  be  worth  having  without  the  freedom  of  soul  and 
the  friendship  with  nature  which  that  readiness  brings. 
The  things  we  know  and  love  on  earth  are,  and  should  be, 
transitory ;  they  are,  as  were  the  things  celebrated  by 
Homer,  at  best  the  song  or  oracle  by  which  heaven  is 
revealed  in  our  time.  We  must  pass  with  them  into  eternity, 
not  in  the  end  only  but  continually,  as  a  phrase  passes  into 
its  meaning  ;  and  since  they  are  part  of  us  and  we  of  them, 
we  should  accompany  them  with  a  good  grace  :  it  would 
be  desolation  to  survive.  The  eternal  is  always  present, 
as  the  flux  of  time  in  one  sense  never  is,  since  it  is  all 
either  past  or  future  ;  but  this  elusive  existence  in  passing 
sets  before  the  spirit  essences  in  which  spirit  rests,  and 
which  can  never  vary ;  as  a  dramatic  poet  creates  a 
character  which  many  an  actor  afterwards  on  many  a 
night  may  try  to  enact.  Of  course  the  flux  of  matter 
carries  the  poets  away  too  ;  they  become  old-fashioned, 
and  nobody  wishes  any  longer  to  play  their  characters ; 
but  each  age  has  its  own  gods.  Time  is  like  an  enterprising 
manager  always  bent  on  staging  some  new  and  surprising 
production,  without  knowing  very  well  what  it  will  be. 
Our  good  mother  Psyche,  who  is  a  convolution  of  this 
material  flux,  breeds  us  accordingly  to  mindlessness  and 
anxiety,  out  of  which  it  is  hard  for  our  youthful  intellect 
to  wean  itself  to  peace,  by  escaping  into  the  essential 
eternity  of  everything  it  sees  and  loves.  So  long  as  the 
world  goes  round  we  shall  see  Tipperary  only,  as  it  were, 
out  of  the  window  of  our  troop-train.  Your  heart  and 
mine  may  remain  there,  but  it's  a  long,  long  way  that  the 
world  has  to  go. 



THERE  is  a  poet  in  every  nice  Englishman  ;  there  is  a 
little  fund  of  free  vitality  deep  down  in  him  which  the 
exigencies  of  his  life  do  not  tap  and  which  no  art  at  his 
command  can  render  articulate.  He  is  able  to  draw  upon 
it,  and  to  drink  in  the  refreshment  and  joy  of  inner  freedom, 
only  in  silent  or  religious  moments.  He  feels  he  is  never 
so  much  himself  as  when  he  has  shed  for  the  time  being 
all  his  ordinary  preoccupations.  That  is  why  his  religion 
is  so  thin  or  (as  he  might  say)  so  pure  :  it  has  no  relevance 
to  any  particular  passions  or  events  ;  a  featureless  back 
ground,  distant  and  restful,  like  a  pale  clear  sky.  That  is 
why  he  loves  nature,  and  country  life,  and  hates  towns  and 
vulgar  people  ;  those  he  likes  he  conceives  emasculated, 
sentimentalized,  and  robed  in  white.  The  silent  poet 
within  him  is  only  a  lyric  poet.  When  he  returns  from 
those  draughts  of  rare  and  abstract  happiness,  he  would 
find  it  hard  to  reconcile  himself  to  the  world,  or  to  himself, 
did  he  not  view  both  through  a  veil  of  convention  and 
make-believe  ;  he  could  not  be  honest  about  himself  and 
retain  his  self-respect ;  he  could  not  be  clear  about  other 
people  and  remain  kind.  Yet  to  be  kind  to  all,  and  true 
to  his  inner  man,  is  his  profound  desire  ;  because  even  if 
life,  in  its  unvarnished  truth,  is  a  gross  medley  and  a  cruel 
business,  it  is  redeemed  for  him,  nevertheless,  by  the  perfect 
beauty  of  soul  that  here  and  there  may  shine  through  it. 
Hamlet  is  the  classic  version  of  this  imprisoned  spirit ;  the 
skylark  seems  a  symbol  of  what  it  would  be  in  its  freedom. 
Poor  larks  !  Is  the  proportion  of  dull  matter  in  their 
bodies,  I  wonder,  really  less  than  in  ours  ?  Must  they  not 
find  food  and  rear  their  young  ?  Must  they  not  in  their 
measure  work,  watch,  and  tremble  ?  Cold,  hunger,  and 
disease  probably  beset  them  more  often  and  more  bitterly 
than  they  do  most  of  us.  But  we  think  of  them  selfishly, 
as  of  actors  on  the  stage,  only  in  the  character  they  wear 
when  they  attract  our  attention.  As  we  walk  through  the 
fields  we  stop  to  watch  and  to  listen  to  them  performing  in 
the  sky,  and  never  think  of  their  home  troubles  ;  which 


they,  too,  seem  for  the  moment  to  have  eluded  ;  at  least 
they  have  energy  and  time  enough  left  over  from  those 
troubles  for  all  this  luxury  of  song.  It  is  this  glorious  if 
temporary  emancipation,  this  absolute  defiant  emphasis 
laid  with  so  much  sweetness  on  the  inner  life  that  the  poet 
in  every  nice  Englishman  loves  in  the  lark  ;  it  seems  to 
reveal  a  brother-spirit  more  fortunate  than  oneself,  almost 
a  master  and  a  guide. 

Larks  made  even  Shelley  envious,  although  no  man 
ever  had  less  reason  to  envy  them  for  their  gift,  either  in 
its  rapture  or  in  its  abstraction.  Even  the  outer  circum 
stances  of  Shelley's  life  were  very  favourable  to  inspiration 
and  left  him  free  to  warble  as  much  and  as  ardently  as  he 
chose  ;  but  perhaps  he  was  somewhat  deceived  by  the 
pathos  of  distance  and  fancied  that  in  Nephelococcygia 
bad  birds  and  wicked  traditions  were  less  tyrannous  than 
in  parliamentary  England.  He  seems  to  have  thought  that 
human  nature  was  not  really  made  for  puddings  and  port 
wine  and  hunting  and  elections,  nor  even  for  rollicking  at 
universities  and  reading  Greek,  but  only  for  innocent 
lyrical  ecstasies  and  fiery  convictions  that  nevertheless 
should  somehow  not  render  people  covetous  or  jealous  or 
cruelly  disposed,  nor  constrain  them  to  prevent  any  one 
from  doing  anything  that  any  one  might  choose  to  do. 
Perhaps  in  truth  the  cloisters  of  Oxford  and  the  streets  of 
London  are  quite  as  propitious  to  the  flights  of  which 
human  nature  is  really  capable  as  English  fields  are  to  the 
flights  of  larks  ;  there  is  food  in  them  for  thought.  But 
j  Shelley  was  impatient  of  human  nature  ;  he  was  horrified 
to  find  that  society  is  a  web  of  merciless  ambitions  and 
jealousies,  mitigated  by  a  quite  subsidiary  kindness  ;  he 
forgot  that  human  life  is  precarious  and  that  its  only 
weapon  against  circumstances,  and  against  rival  men,  is 
intelligent  action,  intelligent  war.  The  case  is  not  other 
wise  with  larks,  on  the  fundamental  earthly  side  of  their 
existence  ;  yet  because  their  flight  is  bodily,  because  it  is 
a  festive  outpouring  of  animal  vitality,  not  of  art  or 
reflection,  it  suggests  to  us  a  total  freedom  of  the  inner 
man,  a  freedom  which  is  impossible. 

In  the  flight  of  larks,  however,  by  a  rare  favour  of 
fortune,  all  seems  to  be  spontaneity,  courage,  and  trust, 


even  within  this  material  sphere  ;  nothing  seems  to  be 
adjustment  or  observation.  Their  life  in  the  air  is  a  sort 
of  intoxication  of  innocence  and  happiness  in  the  blind 
pulses  of  existence.  They  are  voices  of  the  morning, 
young  hearts  seeking  experience  and  not  remembering 
it ;  when  they  seem  to  sob  they  are  only  catching  their 
breath.  They  spring  from  the  ground  as  impetuously 
as  a  rocket  or  the  jet  of  a  fountain,  that  bursts  into  a 
shower  of  sparks  or  of  dew-drops  ;  they  circle  as  they  rise, 
soaring  through  veil  after  veil  of  luminous  air,  or  dropping 
from  level  to  level.  Their  song  is  like  the  gurgling  of 
little  rills  of  water,  perpetual  through  its  delicate  variations, 
and  throbbing  with  a  changed  volume  at  every  change  in 
the  breeze.  Their  rapture  seems  to  us  seraphic,  not  merely 
because  it  descends  to  us  invisibly  from  a  luminous  height, 
straining  our  eyes  and  necks — in  itself  a  cheap  sublimity — 
but  rather  because  the  lark  sings  so  absolutely  for  the  mad 
sake  of  singing.  He  is  evidently  making  high  holiday, 
spending  his  whole  strength  on  something  ultimate  and 
utterly  useless,  a  momentary  entrancing  pleasure  which 
(being  useless  and  ultimate)  is  very  like  an  act  of  worship 
or  of  sacrifice.  Sheer  life  in  him  has  become  pure.  That 
is  what  we  envy  ;  that  is  what  causes  us,  as  we  listen,  to 
draw  a  deeper  breath,  and  perhaps  something  like  tears  to 
come  to  our  eyes.  He  seems  so  triumphantly  to  attain 
what  all  our  labours  end  by  missing,  yet  what  alone  would 
justify  them :  happiness,  selflessness,  a  moment  of  life 
lived  in  the  spirit.  And  we  may  be  tempted  to  say  to 
ourselves  :  Ah,  if  I  could  only  forget,  if  I  could  cease  to 
look  before  and  after,  if  the  pale  cast  of  thought  did  not 
make  a  slave  of  me,  as  well  as  a  coward  ! 

Vital  raptures  such  as  the  lark's  are  indeed  not  unknown 
even  to  man,  and  the  suggestion  of  them  powerfully  allures 
the  Englishman,  being  as  he  is  a  youth  morally,  still 
impelled  to  sport,  still  confident  of  carrying  his  whole 
self  forward  into  some  sort  of  heaven,  whether  in  love, 
in  politics,  or  in  religion,  without  resigning  to  nature  the 
things  that  are  nature's  nor  hiding  in  God  the  things  that 
are  God's.  Alas,  a  sad  lesson  awaits  him,  if  he  ever  grows 
old  enough  to  learn  it.  Vital  raptures,  unless  long  training 
or  a  miracle  of  adaptation  has  antecedently  harmonized 


them  with  the  whole  orchestration  of  nature,  necessarily 
come  to  a  bad  end.  Dancing  and  singing  and  love  and 
sport  and  religious  enthusiasm  are  mighty  ferments : 
happy  he  who  vents  them  in  their  season.  But  if  ever 
they  are  turned  into  duties,  pumped  up  by  force,  or  made 
the  basis  of  anything  serious,  like  morals  or  science,  they 
become  vicious.  The  wild  breath  of  inspiration  is  gone 
which  hurried  them  across  the  soul  like  a  bright  cloud. 
Inspiration,  as  we  may  read  in  Plato  between  the  lines, 
inspiration  is  animal.  It  comes  from  the  depths,  from  that 
hearth  of  Hestia,  the  Earth-Mother,  which  conservative 
pagans  could  not  help  venerating  as  divine.  Only  art 
and  reason,  however,  are  divine  in  a  moral  sense,  not 
because  they  are  less  natural  than  inspiration  (for  the 
Earth-Mother  with  her  seeds  and  vapours  is  the  root  of 
everything)  but  because  they  mount  towards  the  ultimate 
heaven  of  order,  beauty,  intellectual  light,  and  the  achieve 
ment  of  eternal  dignities.  In  that  dimension  of  being 
even  featherless  bipeds  can  soar  and  sing  with  a  good 
grace.  But  space  is  not  their  element ;  airmen,  now 
that  we  have  them,  are  only  a  new  sort  of  sailor.  They 
fly  for  the  sake  of  danger  and  of  high  wages  ;  it  is  a  boyish 
art,  with  its  romantic  glamour  soon  tarnished,  and  only  a 
material  reward  left  for  all  its  skill  and  hardships.  The 
only  sublimity  possible  to  man  is  intellectual ;  when  he 
1  would  be  sublime  in  any  other  dimension  he  is  merely 
'fatuous  and  bombastic.  By  intelligence,  so  far  as  he 
possesses  it,  a  man  sees  things  as  they  are,  transcends 
his  senses  and  his  passions,  uproots  himself  from  his  casual 
station  in  space  and  time,  sees  all  things  future  as  if  they 
were  past,  and  all  things  past  as  for  ever  present,  at  once 
condemns  and  forgives  himself,  renounces  the  world  and 
loves  it.  Having  this  inner  avenue  open  to  divinity,  he 
would  be  a  fool  to  emulate  the  larks  in  their  kind  of  ecstasy. 
His  wings  are  his  intelligence  ;  not  that  they  bring  ulti 
mate  success  to  his  animal  will,  which  must  end  in  failure, 
but  that  they  lift  his  failure  itself  into  an  atmosphere  of 
laughter  and  light,  where  is  his  proper  happiness.  He 
cannot  take  his  fine  flight,  like  the  lark,  in  the  morning, 
in  mad  youth,  in  some  irresponsible  burst  of  vitality, 
because  life  is  impatient  to  begin  :  that  sort  of  thing  is 


the  fluttering  of  a  caged  bird,  a  rebellion  against  circum 
stance  and  against  commonness  which  is  a  sign  of  spirit, 
but  not  spirit  in  its  self-possession,  not  happiness  nor  a 
school  of  happiness.  The  thought  which  crowns  life  at 
its  summit  can  accompany  it  throughout  its  course,  and 
can  reconcile  us  to  its  issue.  Intelligence  is  Homeric  in 
its  pervasive  light.  It  traces  all  the  business  of  nature, 
eluding  but  not  disturbing  it,  rendering  it  in  fact  more 
amiable  than  it  is,  and  rescuing  it  from  vanity. 

Sense  is  like  a  lively  child  always  at  our  elbow,  saying, 
Look,  look,  what  is  that  ?  Will  is  like  an  orator,  indignantly 
demanding  something  different.  History  and  fiction  and 
religion  are  like  poets,  continually  recomposing  the  facts 
into  some  tragic  unity  which  is  not  in  them.  All  these 
forms  of  mind  are  spiritual,  and  therefore  materially 
superfluous  and  free  ;  but  their  spirit  is  pious,  it  is  attentive 
to  its  sources,  and  therefore  seems  to  be  care-laden  and 
not  so  gloriously  emancipated  as  the  music  of  larks,  or 
even  of  human  musicians  ;  yet  thought  is  pure  music  in 
its  essence,  and  only  in  its  subject-matter  retrospective 
and  troubled  about  the  facts.  It  must  indeed  be  troubled 
about  them,  because  in  man  spirit  is  not  a  mere  truant, 
as  it  seems  to  be  in  the  lark,  but  is  a  faithful  chronicler  of 
labour  and  wisdom.  Man  is  hard-pressed  ;  long  truancies 
would  be  fatal  to  him.  He  is  tempted  to  indulge  in  them 
— witness  his  languages  and  pyramids  and  mythologies  ; 
yet  his  margin  of  safety  is  comparatively  narrow,  and  he 
cannot  afford  to  spend  such  relatively  prodigious  amounts 
of  energy  in  mere  play  as  the  lark  does  with  a  light  heart 
and  in  the  grand  manner.  There  are  words  to  man's 
music ;  he  gives  names  to  things ;  he  tries  to  catch  the 
rhythm  of  his  own  story,  or  to  imagine  it  richer  and  more 
sublime  than  it  is.  His  festivals  are  heavy  with  pathos  ; 
they  mark  the  events  on  which  his  existence  turns — 
harvests,  funerals,  redemptions,  wooings,  and  wars,, 
When  he  disregards  all  these  tiresome  things,  he  becomes 
a  fop  or  a  fanatic.  There  is  no  worthy  transport  for  him 
except  sane  philosophy — a  commentary,  not  a  dream. 
His  intelligence  is  most  intense  and  triumphant  when 
there  is  least  waste  in  his  life  ;  for  if  hard  thinking  some 
times  makes  the  head  ache,  it  is  because  it  comes  hard, 


not  because  it  is  thinking ;  our  fuddled  brain  grates  and 
repeats  itself  in  that  it  can't  think.  But  if  your  business 
is  in  order,  it  requires  no  further  pains  to  understand  it. 
Intelligence  is  the  flower  of  war  and  the  flower  of  love. 
Both,  in  the  end,  are  comprehension.  How  miraculously 
in  our  happy  moments  we  understand,  how  far  we  jump, 
what  masses  of  facts  we  dominate  at  a  glance  !  There  is 
no  labour  then,  no  friction  or  groping,  no  anxious  jostling 
against  what  we  do  not  know,  but  only  joy  in  this  intricate 
outspread  humorous  world,  intoxication  as  ethereal  as  the 
lark's,  but  more  descriptive.  If  his  song  is  raised  above 
the  world  for  a  moment  by  its  wantonness  and  idle  rapture, 
ours  is  raised  above  it  essentially  by  its  scope.  To  look 
before  and  after  is  human  ;  it  would  not  be  sincere  nor 
manly  in  us  not  to  take  thought  for  the  morrow  and  not  to 
pine  for  what  is  not.  We  must  start  on  that  basis,  with 
our  human  vitality  (which  is  art)  substituted  for  the 
vegetative  prayerfulness  of  the  lily,  and  our  human  scope 
(which  is  knowledge  of  the  world)  substituted  for  the 
outpourings  of  larks. 

On  this  other  plane  we  could  easily  be  as  happy  as  the 
larks,  if  we  were  as  liberal.  Men  when  they  are  civilized 
and  at  ease  are  liberal  enough  in  their  sports,  and  willing 
to  desipere  in  loco,  like  kittens,  but  it  is  strange  how 
barbarous  and  illiberal,  at  least  in  modern  times,  they 
have  remained  about  thought.  They  wish  to  harness 
thought  like  a  waterfall,  or  like  the  blind  Samson,  to 
work  for  them  night  and  day,  in  the  treadmill  of  their 
interests  or  of  their  orthodoxy.  Fie  upon  their  stupidity 
and  upon  their  slavishness  !  They  do  not  see  that  when 
nature,  with  much  travail,  brings  something  living  to 
birth,  inevitable  thought  is  there  already,  and  gratis, 
and  cannot  possibly  be  there  before.  The  seething  of  the 
brain  is  indeed  as  pragmatic  as  the  habit  of  singing  and 
flying,  which  in  its  inception  doubtless  helped  the  larks  to 
survive,  as  even  the  whiteness  of  the  lily  may  have  done 
through  the  ministry  of  insects  which  it  attracted  ;  but 
even  material  organs  are  bound  to  utility  by  a  very  loose 
tie.  Nature  does  not  shake  off  her  baroque  ornaments 
and  her  vices  until  they  prove  fatal,  and  she  never  thinks 
of  the  most  obvious  invention  or  pressing  reform,  until 


some  complication  brings  her,  she  knows  not  how,  to  try 
the  experiment.  Nature,  having  no  ulterior  purpose,  has 
no  need  of  parsimony  or  haste  or  simplicity.  Much  less 
need  she  be  niggardly  of  spirit,  which  lays  no  tax  upon 
her,  and  consumes  no  energy,  but  laughs  aloud,  a  marvel 
and  a  mystery  to  her,  in  her  very  heart.  All  animal 
functions,  whether  helpful  or  wasteful,  have  this  fourth 
dimension  in  the  realm  of  spirit — the  joy,  or  the  pain,  or 
the  beauty  that  may  be  found  in  them.  Spirit  loads  with 
a  lyric  intensity  the  flying  moment  in  which  it  lives.  It 
actually  paints  the  lily  and  casts  a  perfume  on  the  violet ; 
it  turns  into  vivid  presences  a  thousand  forms  which, 
until  its  flame  lighted  them  up,  were  merged  in  the  passive 
order  and  truth  of  things,  like  the  charms  of  Lucy  by  the 
springs  of  Dove,  before  Wordsworth  discovered  them. 
The  smile  of  nature  is  not  ponderable ;  and  the  changing 
harmonies  of  nature,  out  of  which  spirit  springs,  are  like 
the  conjunctions  or  eclipses  of  planets,  facts  obvious 
enough  to  sense  in  their  specious  simplicity,  yet  materially 
only  momentary  positions  of  transit  for  wayfarers  bound 
each  on  his  own  errand.  The  songs  of  larks  are  like  shooting 
stars  that  drop  downwards  and  vanish  ;  human  intelligence 
is  a  part  of  the  steadier  music  of  the  spheres. 


SKYLARKS,  if  they  exist  elsewhere,  must  be  homesick  for 
England.  They  need  these  kindly  mists  to  hide  and  to 
sustain  them.  Their  flexible  throats  would  soon  be 
parched,  far  from  these  vaporous  meadows  and  hedgerows 
rich  in  berries  and  loam.  How  should  they  live  in  arid 
tablelands,  or  at  merciless  altitudes,  where  there  is  nothing 
but  scorching  heat  or  a  freezing  blizzard  ?  What  space 
could  they  find  for  solitude  and  freedom  in  the  tangle 
of  tropical  forests,  amongst  the  monkeys  and  parrots  ? 
What  reserve,  what  tenderness,  what  inward  springs  of 
happiness  could  they  treasure  amid  those  gross  harlot-like 
flowers  ?  No,  they  are  the  hermits  of  this  mild  atmosphere, 
fled  to  its  wilderness  of  gentle  light.  Well  may  they  leave 



it  to  eagles  to  rush  against  the  naked  sun,  as  if  its  round 
eye  challenged  them  to  single  combat  :  not  theirs  the  stupid 
ferocity  of  passion  against  fact,  anger  against  light,  swift 
ness  against  poise,  beak  and  talons  against  intangible  fire. 
Larks  may  not  be  very  clever,  but  they  are  not  so  foolish 
as  to  be  proud,  or  to  scream  hoarsely  against  the  nature 
of  things.  Having  wings  and  voluble  throats  they  play 
with  them  for  pure  pleasure  ;  they  are  little  artists  and  little 
gentlemen  ;  they  disdain  to  employ  their  faculties  for  their 
mere  utility,  or  only  in  order  to  pounce  down  to  the  earth, 
whenever  they  spy  a  dainty  morsel,  or  to  return  to  sulk 
shivering  on  some  solitary  crag,  their  voracity  but  half 
appeased,  like  eagles  dreaming  of  their  next  victim.  Of 
course,  even  the  most  playful  songster  must  eat,  and 
skylarks  no  doubt  keep  an  eye  open  for  worms,  and  their 
nest  calls  them  back  to  terrene  affections  ;  but  they  are  as 
forgetful  of  earth  as  they  can  be,  and  insatiable  craving 
does  not  stamp  itself  on  their  bent  necks,  as  if  they  were 
vultures,  nor  strain  their  feathers  of  iron.  No  more  are 
they  inspired  by  sentimental  pangs  and  love-sick  like  the 
nightingale  ;  they  do  not  hide  in  the  labyrinthine  shade 
of  ilex  or  cypress,  from  there  to  wail  in  the  melancholy 
moonlight,  as  it  were  a  seductive  serenade  addressed  to 
mortal  lovers.  No,  the  trilling  of  larks  is  not  for  mankind. 
Like  English  poets  they  sing  to  themselves  of  nature,  in 
articulately  happy  in  a  bath  of  light  and  freedom,  sporting 
for  the  sake  of  sport,  turning  what  doubts  they  may  have 
into  sweetness,  not  asking  to  see  or  to  know  anything 
ulterior.  They  must  needs  drink  the  dew  amongst  these 
English  fields,  peeping  into  the  dark  little  hearts  and 
flushed  petals  of  these  daisies,  like  the  heart  and  cheeks 
of  an  English  child,  or  into  these  buttercups,  yellow  like 
his  Saxon  hair.  They  could  hardly  have  built  their  nests 
far  from  this  maze  of  little  streams,  or  from  these  narrow 
dykes  and  ditches,  arched  with  the  scented  tracery  of 
limes  and  willows.  They  needed  this  long,  dull,  chilly 
winter  in  which  to  gather  their  unsuspected  fund  of  yearn 
ing  and  readiness  for  joy ;  so  that  when  high  summer 
comes  at  last  they  may  mount  with  virgin  confidence  and 
ardour  through  these  sunlit  spaces,  to  pour  their  souls  out 
at  heaven's  gate. 


At  heaven's  gate,  but  not  in  heaven.  The  sky,  as  these 
larks  rise  higher  and  higher,  grows  colder  and  thinner  ; 
if  they  could  rise  high  enough,  it  would  be  a  black  void. 
All  this  fluid  and  dazzling  atmosphere  is  but  the  drapery 
of  earth  ;  this  cerulean  vault  is  only  a  film  round  the 
oceans.  As  these  choristers  pass  beyond  the  nether  veils 
of  air,  the  sun  becomes  fierce  and  comfortless ;  they 
freeze  and  are  dazzled  ;  they  must  hurry  home  again  to 
earth  if  they  would  live.  They  must  put  fuel  in  their 
little  engines  :  after  all  it  was  flesh  and  blood  in  them  that 
were  praising  the  Lord.  And  accordingly,  down  they 
drop  to  their  nests  and  peck  about,  anxious  and  silent ; 
but  their  song  never  comes  down.  Up  there  they  leave 
it,  in  the  glittering  desert  it  once  ravished,  in  what  we 
call  the  past.  They  bore  their  glad  offering  to  the  gate 
and  returned  empty ;  but  the  gladness  of  it,  which  in  their 
palpitation  and  hurry  they  only  half  guessed,  passed  in 
and  is  a  part  of  heaven.  In  the  home  of  all  good,  from 
which  their  frail  souls  fetched  it  for  a  moment,  it  is 
still  audible  for  any  ear  that  ever  again  can  attune 
itself  to  that  measure.  All  that  was  loved  or  beautiful 
at  any  time,  or  that  shall  be  so  hereafter,  all  that 
never  was  but  that  ought  to  have  been,  lives  in  that 
paradise,  in  the  brilliant  treasure-house  of  the  gods. 

How  many  an  English  spirit,  too  modest  to  be  heard 
here,  has  now  committed  its  secret  to  that  same  heaven  ! 
Caught  by  the  impulse  of  the  hour,  they  rose  like  larks  in 
the  morning,  cheerily,  rashly,  to  meet  the  unforeseen, 
fatal,  congenial  adventure,  the  goal  not  seen,  the  air  not 
measured,  but  the  firm  heart  steady  through  the  fog  or 
blinding  fire,  making  the  best  of  what  came,  trembling 
but  ready  for  what  might  come,  with  a  simple  courage 
which  was  half  joy  in  living  and  half  willingness  to  die. 
Their  first  flight  was  often  their  last.  What  fell  to  earth 
was  only  a  poor  dead  body,  one  of  a  million  ;  what 
remained  above  perhaps  nothing  to  speak  of,  some  boyish 
sally  or  wistful  fancy,  less  than  the  song  of  a  lark  for  God 
to  treasure  up  in  his  omniscience  and  eternity.  Yet  these 
common  brave  fools  knew  as  well  as  the  lark  the  thing  that 
they  could  do,  and  did  it ;  and  of  other  gifts  and  other 
adventures  they  were  not  envious.  Boys  and  free  men  are 


always  a  little  inclined  to  flout  what  is  not  the  goal  of  their 
present  desires,  or  is  beyond  their  present  scope ;  spontaneity 
in  them  has  its  ebb -flow  in  mockery.  Their  tight  little 
selves  are  too  vigorous  and  too  clearly  determined  to 
brood  much  upon  distant  things  ;  but  they  are  true  to 
their  own  nature,  they  know  and  love  the  sources  of  their 
own  strength.  Like  the  larks,  those  English  boys  had  drunk 
here  the  quintessence  of  many  a  sunlit  morning ;  they 
had  rambled  through  these  same  fields,  fringed  with  hedges 
and  peeping  copse  and  downs  purple  with  heather  ;  these 
paths  and  streams  had  enticed  them  often  ;  they  had  been 
vaguely  happy  in  these  quiet,  habitable  places.  It  was 
enough  for  them  to  live,  as  for  nature  to  revolve  ;  and 
fate,  in  draining  in  one  draught  the  modest  cup  of  their 
spirit,  spared  them  the  weary  dilution  and  waste  of  it  in 
the  world.  The  length  of  things  is  vanity,  only  their 
height  is  joy. 

Of  myself  also  I  would  keep  nothing  but  what  God  may 
keep  of  me — some  lovely  essence,  mine  for  a  moment  in 
that  I  beheld  it,  some  object  of  devout  love  enshrined  where 
all  other  hearts  that  have  a  like  intelligence  of  love  in  their 
day  may  worship  it ;  but  my  loves  themselves  and  my 
reasonings  are  but  a  flutter  of  feathers  weaker  than  a 
lark's,  a  prattle  idler  than  his  warblings,  happy  enough  if 
they  too  may  fly  with  him  and  die  with  him  at  the  gate  of 






0  solitudo,  sola  beatitudo,  Saint  Bernard  said  ;  but  might 
he  not  have  said  just  as  well,  0  societas,  sola  felicitas  ? 
Just  as  truly,  I  think  ;  because  when  a  man  says  that  the 
only  happiness  is  this  or  that,  he  is  like  a  lover  saying 
that  Mary  Jane  is  the  one  woman  in  the  world.  She  may 
be  truly  the  one  woman  for  him,  though  even  that  is  not 
probable  ;  but  he  cannot  mean  to  assert  that  she  is  the 
only  woman  living,  nor  to  deny  that  each  of  the  others 
might  be  the  one  woman  for  somebody.  Now,  when  a 
Hegelian  philosopher,  contradicting  Saint  Bernard,  says 
that  society  is  his  be-all  and  end-all,  that  he  himself  is 
nothing  but  an  invisible  point  at  which  relations  cross, 
and  that  if  you  removed  from  him  his  connection  with 
Hegel,  with  his  university,  his  church,  his  wife,  and  his 
publishers,  there  would  be  nothing  left,  or  at  best  a  name 
and  a  peg  to  hang  a  gown  on,  far  be  it  from  me  to  revise 
his  own  analysis  of  his  nature  ;  society  may  be  the  only 
felicity  and  the  only  reality  for  him.  But  that  cannot 
annul  the  judgement  of  Saint  Bernard.  He  had  a  great 
mind  and  a  great  heart,  and  he  knew  society  well ;  at 
least,  he  accepted  the  verdict  which  antiquity  had  passed 
on  society,  after  a  very  long,  brilliant,  and  hearty  experience 
of  it ;  and  he  knew  the  religious  life  and  solitude  as  well ; 
and  I  can't  help  thinking  that  he,  too,  must  have  been 
right  in  his  self-knowledge,  and  that  solitude  must  have 
been  the  only  happiness  for  him. 

Nevertheless,  the  matter  is  not  limited  to  this  confronting 
of  divers  honest  judgements,  or  confessions  of  moral 
experience.  The  natures  expressed  in  these  judgements 
have  a  long  history,  and  are  on  different  levels  ;  the  one 



may  be  derived  from  the  other.  Thus  it  is  evident  that  the 
beatific  solitude  of  Saint  Bernard  was  filled  with  a  kind  of 
society  ;  he  devoted  it  to  communion  with  the  Trinity,  or 
to  composing  fervent  compliments  to  the  Virgin  Mary.  It 
was  only  the  society  to  be  found  in  inns  and  hovels,  in 
castles,  sacristies,  and  refectories,  that  he  thought  it 
happiness  to  avoid.  That  the  wilderness  to  which  hermits 
flee  must  be  peopled  by  their  fancy,  could  have  been 
foreseen  by  any  observer  of  human  nature.  Tormenting 
demons  or  ministering  angels  must  needs  appear,  because 
man  is  rooted  in  society  and  his  instincts  are  addressed  to 
it ;  for  the  first  nine  months,  or  even  years,  of  his  existence 
he  is  a  parasite  ;  and  scarcely  are  these  parental  bonds  a 
little  relaxed,  when  he  instinctively  forms  other  ties,  that 
turn  him  into_  a  husband  and  father,  and  keep  him  such 
all  his  days,  j  If  ever  he  finds  happiness  in  solitude,  it  can 
only  be  by  lavishing  on  objects  of  his  imagination  the 
attentions  which  his  social  functions  require  that  he  should 
lavish  on  something.  Without  exercising  these  faculties 
somehow  his  nature  would  be  paralysed  ;  there  would  be 
no  fuel  to  feed  a  spiritual  flame.  All  Saint  Bernard  could 
mean,  then,  is  that  happiness  lies  in  this  substitution  of 
an  ideal  for  a  natural  society,  in  converse  with  thoughts 
rather  than  with  things.  Such  a  substitution  is  normal, 
and  a  mark  of  moral  vigour  ;  we  must  not  be  misled  into 
comparing  it  with  a  love  of  dolls  or  of  lap-dogs.  Dolls  are 
not  impersonal,  and  lap-dogs  are  not  ideas  :  they  are  only 
less  rebellious  specimens  of  the  genus  thing  ;  they  are 
more  portable  idols.  To  substitute  the  society  of  ideas 
for  that  of  things  is  simply  to  live  in  the  mind  ;  it  is  to 
survey  the  world  of  existences  in  its  truth  and  beauty 
rather  than  in  its  personal  perspectives,  or  with  practical 
urgency.  It  is  the  sole  path  to  happiness  for  the  intellectual 
man,  because  the  intellectual  man  cannot  be  satisfied  with 
a  world  of  perpetual  change,  defeat,  and  imperfection.?  It 
is  the  path  trodden  by  ancient  philosophers  and  modern 
saints  or  poets  ;  not,  of  course,  by  modern  writers  on  philo 
sophy  (except  Spinoza),  because  these  have  not  been 
philosophers  in  the  vital  sense  ;  they  have  practised  no 
spiritual  discipline,  suffered  no  change  of  heart,  but  lived 
on  exactly  like  other  professors,  and  exerted  themselves 


to  prove  the  existence  of  a  God  favourable  to  their  own 
desires,  instead  of  searching  for  the  God  that  happens  to 
exist.  Certainly  this  path,  in  its  beginnings,  is  arduous, 
and  leaves  the  natural  man  somewhat  spare  and  haggard  ; 
he  seems  to  himself  to  have  fasted  for  forty  days  and  forty 
nights,  and  the  world  regards  his  way  of  living  afterwards 
as  rather  ghostly  and  poor.  But  he  usually  congratulates 
himself  upon  it  in  the  end  ;  and  of  those  who  persevere 
some  become  saints  and  some  poets  and  some  philosophers. 

Yet  why,  we  may  ask,  should  happiness  be  found 
exclusively  in  this  ideal  society  where  none  intrudes  ? 
If  the  intellectual  man  cannot  lay  up  his  treasures  in  a 
world  of  change,  the  natural  man  can  perfectly  well 
satisfy  his  instincts  within  it ;  and  why  shouldn't  the 
two  live  amicably  together  in  a  house  of  two  stories  ? 
I  can  see  no  essential  reason  ;  but  historically  natural 
society  long  ago  proved  a  moral  failure.  It  could  not 
harmonize  nor  decently  satisfy  even  the  instincts  on  which 
it  rests.  Hence  the  philosophers  have  felt  bound  not  only 
to  build  themselves  a  superstructure  but  to  quit  the 
ground  floor — materially,  if  possible,  by  leading  a  monastic 
life,  religiously  in  any  case  by  not  expecting  to  find  much 
except  weeping  and  wailing  in  this  vale  of  tears.  We  may 
tax  this  despair  with  being  premature,  and  call  such  a 
flight  into  an  imaginary  world  a  desperate  expedient ; 
at  any  time  the  attempts  of  the  natural  man  to  live  his 
comic  life  happily  may  be  renewed,  and  may  succeed. 
Solitude  peopled  with  ideas  might  still  remain  to  employ 
the  mind  ;  but  it  would  not  be  the  only  beatitude. 

Yet  the  insecurity  of  natural  society  runs  deeper,  for 
natural  society  itself  is  an  expedient  and  a  sort  of  refuge 
of  despair.  It,  too,  in  its  inception,  seemed  a  sacrifice  and 
a  censtraint.  The  primitive  soul  hates  order  and  the 
happiness  founded  on  order.  The  barbarous  soul  hates 
justice  and  peace.  The  belly  is  always  rebelling  against 
the  members.  The  belly  was  once  all  in  all ;  it  was  a 
single  cell  floating  deliriously  in  a  warm  liquid  ;  it  had 
no  outer  organs  ;  it  thought  it  didn't  need  them.  It 
vegetated  in  peace  ;  no  noises,  no  alarms,  no  lusts,  no 
nonsense.  Ah,  veritably  solitude  was  blessedness  then  ! 
But  it  was  a  specious  solitude  and  a  precarious  blessedness, 


resting  on  ignorance.  The  warm  liquid  might  cool,  or  might 
dry  up  ;  it  might  breed  all  sorts  of  enemies  ;  presently 
heaven  might  crack  and  the  cell  be  cleft  in  two.  Happy 
the  hooded  microbe  that  put  forth  feelers  in  time,  and 
awoke  to  its  social  or  unsocial  environment !  I  am  not 
sure  that,  beneath  the  love  of  ideal  society,  there  was  not 
in  Saint  Bernard j  a  lingering  love  of  primeval  peace,  of 
seminal  slumber  ;  that  he  did  not  yearn  for  the  cell  bio 
logical  as  well  as  for  the  cell  monastic.  Life,  mere  living, 
is  a  profound  ideal,  pregnant  with  the  memory  of  a  possible 
happiness,  the  happiness  of  protoplasmj;  and  the  advocate 
of  moral  society  must  not  reckon  without  his  host.  He  has 
a  rebellious  material  in  hand  ;  his  every  atom  is  instinct 
with  a  life  of  its  own  which  it  may  reassert,  upsetting  his 
calculations  and  destroying  his  organic  systems.  Only  the 
physical  failure  of  solitude  drove  the  spirit  at  first  into 
society,  as  the  moral  failure  of  society  may  drive  it  later 
into  solitude  again.  If  any  one  said,  then,  that  happiness 
lies  only  in  society,  his  maxim  would  be  no  less  sincere  and 
solid  than  Saint  Bernard's,  but  it  would  not  be  so  profound. 
For  beneath  natural  society,  in  the  heart  of  each  of  its 
members,  there  is  always  an  intense  and  jealous  solitude, 
the  sleep  of  elemental  life  which  can  never  be  wholly  broken  ; 
and  above  natural  society  there  is  always  another  solitude 
— a  placid  ethereal  wilderness,  the  heaven  of  ideas — 
beckoning  the  mind. 


|  MEN  are  ruled  by  imagination  :  imagination  makes  them 
into  men,  capable  of  madness  and  of  immense  labours. 
We  work  dreaming,  j  Consider  what  dreams  must  have 
dominated  the  builders  of  the  Pyramids — dreams  geometri 
cal,  dreams  funereal,  dreams  of  resurrection,  dreams  of 
outdoing  the  pyramid  of  some  other  Pharaoh  !  What 
dreams  occupy  that  fat  man  in  the  street,  toddling  by 
under  his  shabby  hat  and  bedraggled  rain-coat  ?  Perhaps 
he  is  in  love  ;  perhaps  he  is  a  Catholic,  and  imagines 
that  early  this  morning  he  has  partaken  of  the  body  and 


blood  of  Christ ;  perhaps  he  is  a  revolutionist,  with  the 
millennium  in  his  heart  and  a  bomb  in  his  pocket.  The 
spirit  bloweth  where  it  listeth  ;  the  wind  of  inspiration 
carries  our  dreams  before  it  and  constantly  refashions  them 
like  clouds.  Nothing  could  be  madder,  more  irresponsible, 
more  dangerous  than  this  guidance  of  men  by  dreams. 
What  saves  us  is  the  fact  that  our  imaginations,  groundless 
and  chimerical  as  they  may  seem,  are  secretly  suggested 
and  controlled  by  shrewd  old  instincts  of  our  animal 
nature,  and  by  continual  contact  with  things.  The  shock 
of  sense,  breaking  in  upon  us  with  a  fresh  irresistible  image, 
checks  wayward  imagination  and  sends  it  rebounding  in  a 
new  direction,  perhaps  more  relevant  to  what  is  happening 
in  the  world  outside. 

When  I  speak  of  being  governed  by  imagination,  of 
course  I  am  indulging  in  a  figure  of  speech,  in  an  ellipsis ; 
in  reality  we  are  governed  by  that  perpetual  latent  process 
within  us  by  which  imagination  itself  is  created.  Actual 
imaginings — the  cloud-like  thoughts  drifting  by — are  not 
masters  over  themselves  nor  over  anything  else.  They  are 
like  the  sound  of  chimes  in  the  night ;  they  know  nothing 
of  whence  they  came,  how  they  will  fall  out,  or  how  long 
they  will  ring.  There  is  a  mechanism  in  the  church  tower  ; 
there  was  a  theme  in  the  composer's  head  ;  there  is  a 
beadle  who  has  been  winding  the  thing  up.  jThe  sound 
wafted  to  us,  muffled  by  distance  and  a  thousand  obstacles, 
is  but  the  last  lost  emanation  of  this  magical  bell-ringing.  | 
Yet  in  our  dream  it  is  all  in  all ;  it  is  what  first  entertains 
and  absorbs  the  mind.  Imagination,  when  it  chimes  within 
us,  apparently  of  itself,  is  no  less  elaborately  grounded  ;  it 
is  a  last  symptom,  a  rolling  echo,  by  which  we  detect  and 
name  the  obscure  operation  that  occasions  it ;  and  not 
this  echo  in  its  aesthetic  impotence,  but  the  whole  operation 
whose  last  witness  it  is,  receives  in  science  the  name  of 
imagination,  and  may  be  truly  said  to  rule  the  human  world. 

This  extension  of  names  is  inevitable  although  unfortu 
nate,  because  language  and  perception  are  poetical  before 
they  become  scientific,  if  they  ever  do ;  as  Aristotle 
observes  that  the  word  anger  is  used  indifferently  for  two 
different  things  :  dialectically,  or  as  I  call  it,  imaginatively, 
for  the  desire  for  revenge,  but  physically  for  a  boiling  of 


the  humours.  And  utterly  different  as  these  two  things 
are  in  quality,  no  great  inconvenience  results  from  giving 
them  the  same  name,  because  historically  they  are  parts 
of  the  same  event.  Nature  has  many  dimensions  at  once, 
and  whenever  we  see  anything  happen,  much  else  is  happen 
ing  there  which  we  cannot  see.  Whilst  dreams  entertain  us, 
the  balance  of  our  character  is  shifting  beneath  :  we  are 
growing  while  we  sleep.  The  young  think  in  one  way,  the 
drunken  in  another,  and  the  dead  not  at  all ;  and  I 
imagine — for  I  have  imagination  myself — that  they  do  not 
die  because  they  stop  thinking,  but  they  stop  thinking 
because  they  die.  How  much  veering  and  luffing  before 
they  make  that  port !  JThe  brain  of  man,  William  James 
used  to  say,  has  a  hair-trigger  organization.  His  life  is 
terribly  experimental.  He  is  perilously  dependent  on  the 
oscillations  of  a  living^  needle,  imagination,  that  never 
points  to  the  true  north] 

There  are  books  in  which  the  footnotes,  or  the  comments 
scrawled  by  some  reader's  hand  in  the  margin,  are  more 
interesting  than  the  text.  The  world  is  one  of  these  books. 
The  reciprocal  interference  of  magnetic  fields  (which  I 
understand  is  the  latest  conception  of  matter)  may  compose 
a  marvellous  moving  pattern  ;  but  the  chief  interest  to  us 
of  matter  lies  in  its  fertility  in  producing  minds  and  present 
ing  recognizable  phenomena  to  the  senses ;  and  the  chief 
interest  of  any  scientific  notion  of  its  intrinsic  nature  lies 
in  the  fact  that,  if  not  literally  true,  it  may  liberate  us  from 
more  misleading  conceptions.  Did  we  have  nothing  but 
electrical  physics  to  think  of,  the  nightmare  would  soon 
become  intolerable.  But  a  hint  of  that  kind,  like  a  hasty 
glance  into  the  crater  of  a  volcano,  sends  a  wholesome 
shudder  through  our  nerves  ;  we  realize  how  thin  is  the 
crust  we  build  on,  how  mythical  and  remote  from  the 
minute  and  gigantic  scale  of  nature  are  the  bright  images 
we  seem  to  move  among,  all  cut  out  and  fitted  to  our 
human  stature.  Yet  these  bright  images  are  our  natural 
companions,  and  if  we  do  not  worship  them  idolatrously 
nor  petrify  them  into  substances,  forgetting  the  nimble 
use  of  them  in  mental  discourse,  which  is  where  they 
belong,  they  need  not  be  more  misleading  to  us,  even  for 
scientific  purposes,  than  are  words  or  any  other  symbols. 


It  is  fortunate  that  the  material  world,  whatever  may 
be  its  intrinsic  structure  or  substance,  falls  to  our  appre 
hension  into  such  charming  units.  There  is  the  blue  vault 
of  heaven,  there  are  the  twinkling  constellations,  there  are 
the  mountains,  trees,  and  rivers,  and  above  all  those 
fascinating  unstable  unities  which  we  call  animals  and 
persons  ;  magnetic  fields  I  am  quite  ready  to  believe  them, 
for  such  in  a  vast  vague  way  I  feel  them  to  be,  but 
individual  bodies  they  will  remain  to  my  sensuous  imagina 
tion,  and  dramatic  personages  to  my  moral  sense.  They, 
too,  are  animate  :  they,  too,  compose  a  running  commentary 
on  things  and  on  one  another,  adding  their  salacious 
footnotes  to  the  dull  black  letter  of  the  world.  Many  of 
them  are  hardly  aware  of  their  own  wit ;  knowing  they 
are  but  commentators,  they  are  intent  on  fidelity  and 
unconscious  of  invention.  Yet  against  their  will  they  gloss 
everything,  willy-nilly  we  are  all  scholiasts  together. 
Heaven  forbid  that  I  should  depreciate  this  prodigious 
tome  of  nature,  or  question  in  one  jot  or  tittle  the  absolute 
authority  of  its  Author  ;  but  it  is  like  an  encyclopaedia  in 
an  infinite  number  of  volumes,  or  a  directory  with  the 
addresses  of  everybody  that  ever  lived.  We  may  dip  into 
it  on  occasion  in  search  of  some  pertinent  fact,  but  it  is 
not  a  book  to  read ;  its  wealth  is  infinite,  but  so  is  its 
monotony  ;  it  is  not  composed  in  our  style  nor  in  our 
language,  we  could  not  have  written  one  line  of  it.  Yet 
the  briefest  text  invites  reflection,  and  we  may  spin  a  little 
homily  out  of  it  in  the  vernacular  for  our  own  edification. 

In  the  Mahabharata,  a  learned  friend  tells  me,  a  young 
champion  armed  for  the  combat  and  about  to  rush  forward 
between  the  two  armies  drawn  up  in  battle  array,  stops  for 
a  moment  to  receive  a  word  of  counsel  from  his  spiritual 
adviser — and  that  word  occupies  the  next  eighteen  books 
of  the  epic  ;  after  which  the  battle  is  allowed  to  proceed. 
These  Indian  poets  had  spiritual  minds,  they  measured 
things  by  their  importance  to  the  spirit,  not  to  the  eye. 
They  despised  verisimilitude  and  aesthetic  proportion  ; 
they  despised  existence,  the  beauties  of  which  they  felt 
exquisitely  nevertheless,  and  to  which  their  imagination 
made  such  stupendous  additions.  I  honour  their  courage 
in  bidding  the  sun  stand  still,  not  that  they  might 


thoroughly  vanquish  an  earthly  enemy,  but  that  they 
might  wholly  clarify  their  own  soul.  For  this  better 
purpose  the  sun  need  not  stand  still  materially.  For  the 
spirit,  time  is  an  elastic  thing.  Fancy  is  quick  and  brings 
the  widest  vistas  to  a  focus  in  a  single  instant.  After  the 
longest  interval  of  oblivion  and  death,  it  can  light  up  the 
same  image  in  all  the  greenness  of  youth  ;  and  if  cut  short, 
as  it  were  at  Pompeii,  in  the  midst  of  a  word,  it  can, 
ages  after,  without  feeling  the  break,  add  the  last  syllable. 
Imagination  changes  the  scale  of  everything,  and  makes  a 
thousand  patterns  of  the  woof  of  nature,  without  disturbing 
a  single  thread.  Or  rather — since  it  is  nature  itself  that 
imagines — it  turns  to  music  what  was  only  strain ;  as  if 
the  universal  vibration,  suddenly  ashamed  of  having  been 
so  long  silent  and  useless,  had  burst  into  tears  and  laughter 
at  its  own  folly,  and  in  so  doing  had  become  wise. 


NATURE,  like  a  theatre,  offers  a  double  object  to  the  mind. 
There  is  in  the  first  place  the  play  presented,  the  overt 
spectacle,  which  is  something  specious  and  ideal ;  and 
then  there  is  something  material  and  profound  lying 
behind  and  only  symbolically  revealed,  namely,  the  stage, 
the  actors,  and  the  author.  The  playful  spectacular  sort 
of  reality  we  can  pretty  well  dominate  and  exhaust,  if  we 
are  attentive  ;  indeed  the  prospect,  in  its  sensuous  and 
poetic  essence,  is  plastic  to  attention,  and  alters  its 
character  according  to  the  spectator's  station  and  faculty  ; 
a  poetic  theme  develops  as  interest  in  it  is  aroused,  and 
offers  different  beauties  and  different  morals  to  every 
new  critic.  The  instrumentalities,  on  the  contrary,  which 
bring  this  spectacle  before  us,  whether  they  be  material 
or  personal,  are  unfathomable.  They  are  events,  not 
ideas.  Even  putting  together  all  that  carpenters  and 
chemists,  biographers  and  psychologists,  might  learn  about 
these  events,  we  could  never  probe  them  to  the  bottom. 
In  the  beginning,  as  for  a  child  at  his  first  pantomime, 


the  play's  the  thing ;  and  a  human  audience  can  never 
quite  outgrow  this  initial  illusion,  since  this  world  is  a 
theatre  nobody  can  visit  twice.  If  we  could  become 
habitues,  old  theatre-goers  amongst  the  worlds,  we  might 
grow  more  discriminating  ;  on  the  whole  we  might  enjoy 
the  performances  just  as  much  or  even  more,  perhaps  ; 
yet  less  breathlessly.  We  should  see  more  and  believe 
less.  |  The  pleasure  of  seeing  is  one,  and  the  pleasure  of 
believing  is  quite  another  ;  the  first  liberates  our  senses 
and  fills  the  present  with  light ;  the  second  directs  our 
conduct  and  relieves  our  anxiety  or  doubts  about  the  past 
and  future.  When  the  spectator  bethinks  himself  of 
destiny  as  well  as  of  beauty,  his  sensibility  becomes  tragic, 
it  becomes  intelligence.  Every  picture  is  then  regarded 
as  a  sign  for  the  whole  situation  which  has  generated 
it  or  which  it  forebodes.  The  given  image,  for  intelligence, 
expresses  a  problematic  fact ;  and  intelligence  invents 
various  grammatical  forms  and  logical  categories  by  which 
to  describe  its  hidden  enemy  or  fascinating  prey.  So 
spontaneous  and  dogmatic  is  the  intellect  in  this  interpreta 
tion  of  the  scene  that  the  conceived  object  (however 
abstractly  sketched)  is  unhesitatingly  judged  to  be,  as  we 
say,  the  real  thing :  it  alone  works  and  acts,  whilst  the 
given  image  is  either  disregarded  altogether  or  despised  as 
a  mere  word  or  phantasm  of  sense,  such  as  only  fools 
would  stop  to  gaze  at.  And  it  is  very  true,  whatever 
desperate  efforts  empiricism  may  make  to  deny  it,  that 
every  figure  crossing  the  stage  of  apprehension  is  a  symbol, 
or  may  become  a  symbol ;  they  all  have  some  occasion 
and  arise  out  of  some  deeper  commotion  in  the  material 
world.  The  womb  of  nature  is  full  of  crowding  events, 
to  us  invisible  ;  the  ballet  has  machinery  behind  its  vistas 
and  its  music  ;  the  dancers  possess  a  character  and  fate 
in  the  daylight  quite  foreign  to  these  fays  and  shepherds 
before  the  footlights  :  what  to  us  is  a  pirouette  to  them 
is  a  twitch  or  a  shilling.  Shame  to  the  impious  egotism 
that  would  deny  it,  and,  in  order  to  spare  itself  the  tension 
of  faith  and  the  labour  of  understanding,  would  pretend 
to  find  in  experience  nothing  but  a  shadowy  tapestry,  a 
landscape  without  a  substance.  To  its  invisible  substance 
the  spectacle  owes  riot  only  its  existence  but  its  meaning, 


since  our  interest  in  the  scene  is  rooted  in  a  hidden  life 
within  us,  quite  as  much  as  the  shifts  and  colours  of  the 
scenery  are  rooted  in  tricks  of  the  stage.  Nevertheless 
the  roots  of  things  are  properly  and  decently  hidden  under 
ground,  and  it  is  as  childish  to  be  always  pulling  them 
up,  to  make  sure  that  they  exist,  as  it  is  to  deny  their 
existence.  The  flowers  are  what  chiefly  interests  a  man 
of  taste  ;  the  spectacle  is  what  liberal-minded  people  have 
come  to  see.  Every  image  has  its  specific  aspect  and 
aesthetic  essence,  more  or  less  charming  in  itself  ;  the 
sensualist,  the  poet,  the  chronicler  of  his  passing  visions 
must  take  them  at  their  face  value,  and  be  content  with 
that.  Fair  masks,  like  flowers,  like  sunsets,  like  melodies 
wrung  out  of  troubled  brains  and  strung  wire,  cover  for 
us  appropriately  the  anatomical  face  of  nature ;  and 
words  and  dogmas  are  other  masks,  behind  which  we,  too, 
can  venture  upon  the  stage  ;  for  it  is  life  to  give  expression 
to  life,  transmuting  diffused  movements  into  clear  images. 
How  blind  is  the  zeal  of  the  iconoclasts,  and  how  profoundly 
hostile  to  religious  impulse  !  They  pour  scorn  upon  eyes 
that  see  not  and  a  mouth  that  cannot  speak  ;  they  despise 
a  work  of  art  or  of  thought  for  being  finished  and  motion 
less  ;  as  if  the  images  of  the  retina  were  less  idols  than 
those  of  the  sculptor,  and  as  if  words,  of  all  things,  were 
not  conventional  signs,  grotesque  counterfeits,  dead 
messengers,  like  fallen  leaves,  from  the  dumb  soul.  Why 
should  one  art  be  contemptuous  of  the  figurative  language 
of  another  ?  Jehovah,  who  would  suffer  no  statues,  was 
himself  a  metaphor. 


WHEN  we  are  children  we  love  putting  on  masks  to 
astonish  our  elders  ;  there  is  a  lordly  pleasure  in  puzzling 
those  harmless  giants  who  are  not  in  the  secret.  We 
ourselves,  of  course,  know  that  it  is  only  a  disguise  ;  and 
when  presently  we  pull  it  off,  their  surprise  at  recognizing 
us  is  something  deliriously  comic.  Yet,  at  bottom,  this 
compulsory  return  to  nature  is  a  little  sad  ;  our  young 

MASKS  129 

empiricism  would  like  to  take  appearances  more  seriously. 
To  an  unsophisticated  mind  every  transformation  seems 
as  credible  as  it  is  interesting;    there  is  always  danger 
and  hope  of  anything.     Why  should  people  hesitate  to 
believe  something  intrinsically  so  plausible  as  that  Johnny 
should  have  acquired  a  bull's  head,  or  that  little  Alice 
should  suddenly  develop  a  red  nose  and  furious  mustachios  ? 
That  is  just  the  sort  of  thing  that  would  happen  if  this 
stupid  world  were  only  more  natural ;    but  the  trouble 
with  old  people  is  that  their  minds  have  become  stagnant, 
dominated  as  they  are  by  precedent  and  prejudice  ;    it 
is  too  much  of  an  exertion  for  them  to  imagine  anything 
but  what  they  have  always  seen.     Even  when  they  tell 
us  about  religion,  which  is  so  full  of  exciting  and  lovely 
things  that  we  know  must  be  true,  they  seem  to  be  trying 
to  remember  something  they  have  read  or  heard  of,  "and 
quite  spoil  the  story  ;    they  don't  seem   to  understand 
at  all,  as  we  do,  why  it  all  happens.     They  are  terrible 
believers  in  substance,   and  can  hardly  lend  themselves 
to  the  wayward  game  of  experience.     This  after  all  wouldn't 
matter  so  much  ;  it  is  not  worth  while  playing  with  people 
who  don't  relish  games.     The  subtlest  part  of  the  pleasure 
is  being  blindfolded  on  purpose  and  feeling  lost  when  you 
know  you  are  not  lost.     Empiricism  would  be  agony  if 
any  one  was  so  silly  as  really  to  forget  his  material  status 
and  to  become  the  sport  of  his  passing  ideas.     But  masks 
are  great  fun  in  themselves,  and  when  you  are  fundamentally 
sane  it  is  pleasant  to  play  the  madman  and  to  yield  to  the 
eloquence  of  an  imagined  life  ;   and  it  is  intolerable  to  have 
the  game  spoiled  by  some  heavy-footed  person  who  con 
stantly  reminds  you  of  the  discovered  facts  and  will  not 
lend  himself  to  the  spirit  of  your  fiction,  which  is  the  deepest 
part  of  your  own  spirit.     No  one  would  be  angry  with  a 
man  for  unintentionally  making  a  mistake  about  a  matter 
of  fact  ;   but  if  he  perversely  insists  on  spoiling  your  story 
in  the  telling  of  it,  you  want  to  kick  him  ;   and  this  is  the 
reason   why  every  philosopher   and   theologian  is  justly 
vexed    with    every    other.     When    we    are    children    the 
accident   and   fatality   of  having   been   born   human   are 
recent  and  only  half  welcome  ;   we  still  feel  a  little  hurt  at 
being  so  arbitrarily  confined  to  one  miserable  career  and 


forced  to  remain  always  consistent ;  we  still  see  the  equal 
antecedent  propriety  of  being  anybody  or  anything  else. 
Masks  afford  us  the  pleasing  excitement  of  revising  our 
so  accidental  birth-certificate  and  of  changing  places  in 
spirit  with  some  other  changeling. 

Nevertheless  the  game  soon  tires.  Although  children 
are  no  believers  in  substance,  they  are  substances  them 
selves  without  knowing  it.  The  mask  refuses  to  grow  on 
to  their  flesh  :  it  thwarts  their  rising  impulses.  Play 
acting  is  seldom  worth  the  commitments  it  involves ; 
your  part,  after  a  few  enthusiastic  rehearsals,  turns  out 
not  really  to  suit  you.  It  seemed  at  first  to  open  up 
splendid  adventures  and  give  you  a  chance  to  display 
your  unsuspected  passions  and  powers ;  but  now  you 
begin  to  think  your  speeches  ridiculous  and  your  costume 
unbecoming.  You  must  pull  off  the  mask  to  see  clearly 
and  to  breathe  freely  ;  you  are  overheard  indulging  in 
asides  that  are  out  of  character,  and  swearing  in  the 
unvarnished  vernacular  ;  and  when  the  performance  at 
last  is  over,  what  a  relief  to  fling  away  your  wig  and  your 
false  beard,  and  relapse  into  your  honest  self !  There 
is  no  place  like  home,  although  there  may  be  better  places  ; 
and  there  is  no  face  like  one's  own,  for  comfort  to  the 

The  Englishman  likes  to  be  comfortable,  and  he  hates 
masks.  It  is  pleasant  to  be  straightforward,  as  it  is  to 
be  clean.  Mere  facades  offend  him  so  much  that  he  actually 
manages  to  build  houses  without  them  ;  they  have  creepers, 
they  have  chimneys,  they  have  bow-windows,  they  have 
several  doors,  but  they  have  no  front.  His  Empire,  too, 
for  all  its  extent  and  complexity,  presents  no  imposing 
fa$ade  to  the  world  ;  it  seems  to  elude  observation  and  to 
be  everywhere  apologizing  for  its  existence.  Its  enemies, 
on  the  contrary,  both  at  home  and  abroad,  are  blatancy 
itself,  always  parading  their  heroisms  and  their  ambitions  ; 
and  one  wonders  how  a  power  so  hated,  so  hesitant,  and  so 
involuntary  can  last  at  all.  But  it  has  a  certain  plastic 
invulnerability  ;  you  pommel  it  and  trample  on  it  here, 
and  its  strength  turns  out  to  have  lain  in  quite  another 
quarter.  It  is  like  the  sort  of  man  who  serves  it,  a 
pale  languid  youth,  sprawling  on  cushions,  and  lisping  a 

MASKS  131 

little  when  he  cares  to  take  his  pipe  out  of  his  mouth  at 
all ;  but  what  is  your  surprise  when,  something  having 
happened,  he  gets  up  and  knocks  you  down.  Nothing 
had  ptrepared  you  for  that ;  no  philosophical  eloquence 
or  resounding  coup  d'etat :  he  is  perhaps  a  little  surprised 
himself  at  his  energy.  He  blushes  if  by  chance  any  warm 
gesture  or  expression  has  escaped  him  ;  he  feels  that  it 
misrepresents  his  average  sentiment ;  the  echo  of  it  sounds 
hollow  in  his  ear,  and  just  because  it  was  so  spontaneous 
he  detests  it  as  if  it  had  been  a  lie.  The  passing  grimaces 
of  passion,  the  masks  of  life,  are  odious  to  him  ;  yet  he 
is  quite  happy  to  be  deceived  and  to  be  masked  by  a  thick 
atmosphere  of  convention,  if  only  this  atmosphere  is 
temperate  and  sustained.  He  will  be  loyal  to  any  nonsense 
that  seems  to  justify  his  instincts  and  that  has  got  a 
domestic  stamp  ;  but  elaborate  original  lies  are  not  in 
his  nature  ;  he  has  no  histrionic  gift.  Intrigue  requires 
a  clear  perception  of  the  facts,  an  insight  into  other 
people's  motives,  and  a  power  of  sustained  simulation  ; 
he  is  not  clever  at  any  of  these  things.  Masks,  wigs, 
cowls,  and  stays  are  too  troublesome  ;  if  you  are  not 
always  on  the  watch,  the  beastly  things  will  fall  off.  He 
prefers  to  dress  his  personage  more  constitutionally  ;  the 
dyes  he  uses  must  be  all  indelible,  such  as  religion  and 
education  can  supply.  These,  with  the  habit  of  his  set  or 
profession,  are  his  lifelong  make-up  and  his  second  nature  ; 
his  only  mask  is  the  imperturbed  expression  which  time  and 
temperance  have  chiselled  in  his  face. 


MASKS  are  arrested  expressions  and  admirable  echoes  of 
feeling,  at  once  faithful,  discreet,  and  superlative.  Living 
things  in  contact  with  the  air  must  acquire  a  cuticle, 
and  it  is  not  urged  against  cuticles  that  they  are  not  hearts  ; 
yet  some  philosophers  seem  to  be  angry  with  images  for 
not  being  things,  and  with  words  for  not  being  feelings. 
LWords  and  images  are  like  shells,  no  less  integral  parts  of 



nature  than  are  the  substances  they  cover,  but  better 
addressed  to  the  eye  and  more  open  to  observation.  I 
would  not  say  that  substance  exists  for  the  sake  of  appear 
ance,  or  faces  for  the  sake  of  masks,  or  the  passions  for  the 
sake  of  poetry  and  virtue.  Nothing  arises  in  nature  for 
the  sake  of  anything  else  ;  all  these  phases  and  products  are 
nvolved  equally  in  the  round  of  existence,  and  it  would 
DC  sheer  wilfulness  to  praise  the  germinal  phase  on  the 
ground  that  it  is  vital,  and  to  denounce  the  explicit  phase 
on  the  ground  that  it  is  dead  and  sterile.!  We  might  as 
justly  despise  the  seed  for  being  merely  instrumental,  and 
glorify  the  full-blown  flower,  or  the  conventions  of  art, 
as  the  highest  achievement  and  fruition  of  life.  Substance 
is  fluid,  and,  since  it  cannot  exist  without  some  form,  is 
always  ready  to  exchange  one  form  for  another  ;  but 
sometimes  it  falls  into  a  settled  rhythm  or  recognizable 
vortex,  which  we  call  a  nature,  and  which  sustains  an 
interesting  form  for  a  season.  These  sustained  forms  are 
enshrined  in  memory  and  worshipped  in  moral  philosophy, 
which  often  assigns  to  them  a  power  to  create  and  to 
reassert  themselves  which  their  precarious  status  is  very 
far  from  justifying.  But  they  are  all  in  all  to  the  mind  : 
art  and  happiness  lie  in  pouring  and  repouring  the  molten 
metal  of  existence  through  some  such  tenable  mould. 

Masks  are  accordingly  glorious  things ;  we  are  in 
stinctively  as  proud  of  designing  and  wearing  them  as  we 
are  of  inventing  and  using  words.  The  blackest  tragedy 
is  festive  ;  the  most  pessimistic  philosophy  is  an  enthusiastic 
triumph  of  thought.  The  life  which  such  expressions  seem 
to  arrest  or  to  caricature  would  be  incomplete  without 
them  ;  indeed,  it  would  be  blind  and  abortive.  It  is  no 
interruption  to  experience  to  master  experience,  as  tragedy 
aspires  to  do ;  nor  is  it  an  interruption  to  sink  into 
its  episodes  and  render  them  consummate,  which  is  the 
trick  of  comedy.  On  the  contrary,  without  such  playful 
pauses  and  reflective  interludes  our  round  of  motions  and 
sensations  would  be  deprived  of  that  intellectual  dignity 
which  relieves  it  and  renders  it  morally  endurable — the 
dignity  of  knowing  what  we  are  doing,  even  if  it  be  foolish 
in  itself,  and  with  what  probable  issue.  Tragedy,  the 
knowledge  of  death,  raises  us  to  that  height.  In  fancy 

"'     ' 


and  for  a  moment  it  brings  our  mortal  wills  into  harmony 
with  our  destiny,  with  the  wages  of  existence,  and  with 
the  silence  beyond.  These  discoveries  of  reason  have 
fixed  the  expression  of  the  tragic  mask,  half  horror  and  half 
sublimity.  Such  is  the  countenance  of  man  when  turned 
towards  death  and  eternity  and  looking  beyond  all  his 
endeavours  at  the  Gorgon  face  of  the  truth.  This  is  not 
to  say  that  it  is  less  human,  or  less  legitimate,  to  look 
in  other  directions  and  to  make  other  faces.  But  whether 
the  visage  we  assume  be  a  joyful  or  a  sad  one,  in  adopting 
and  emphasizing  it  we  define  our  sovereign  temper.  Hence 
forth,  so  long  as  we  continue  under  the  spell  of  this  self- 
knowledge,  we  do  not  merely  live  but  act ;  we  compose 
and  play  our  chosen  character,  we  wear  the  buskin  of 
deliberation,  we  defend  and  idealize  our  passions,  we 
encourage  ourselves  eloquently  to  be  what  we  are,  devoted 
or  scornful  or  careless  or  austere  ;  we  soliloquize  (before 
an  imaginary  audience)  and  we  wrap  ourselves  gracefully 
in  the  mantle  of  our  inalienable  part.  So  draped,  we 
solicit  applause  and  expect  to  die  amid  a  universal  hush. 
We  profess  to  live  up  to  the  fine  sentiments  we  have 
uttered,  as  we  try  to  believe  in  the  religion  we  profess. 
The  greater  our  difficulties  the  greater  our  zeal.  Under 
our  published  principles  and  plighted  language  we  must 
assiduously  hide  all  the  inequalities  of  our  moods  and 
conduct,  and  this  without  hypocrisy,  since  our  deliberate 
character  is  more  truly  ourself  than  is  the  flux  of  our 
involuntary  dreams.  The  portrait  we  paint  in  this  way 
and  exhibit  as  our  true  person  may  well  be  in  the  grand 
manner,  with  column  and  curtain  and  distant  landscape 
and  finger  pointing  to  the  terrestrial  globe  or  to  the  Yorick- 
skull  of  philosophy ;  but  if  this  style  is  native  to  us  and 
our  art  is  vital,  the  more  it  transmutes  its  model  the 
deeper  and  truer  art  it  will  be.]  The  severe  bust  of  an 
archaic  sculpture,  scarcely  humanizing  the  block,  will 
express  a  spirit  far  more  justly  than  the  man's  dull  morning 
looks  or  casual  grimaces.  Every  one  who  is  sure  of  his 
mind,  or  proud  of  his  office,  or  anxious  about  his  duty 
assumes  a  tragic  mask.  He  deputes  it  to  be  himself  and 
transfers  to  it  almost  all  his  vanity.  While  still  alive 
and  subject,  like  all  existing  things,  to  the  undermining 


flux  of  his  own  substance,  he  has  crystallized  his  soul 
into  an  idea,  and  more  in  pride  than  in  sorrow  he  has 
offered  up  his  life  on  the  altar  of  the  Muses.  Self-knowledge, 
like  any  art  or  science,  renders  its  subject-matter  in  a  new 
medium,  the  medium  of  ideas,  in  which  it  loses  its  old 
dimensions  and  its  old  pace.  Our  animal  habits  are  trans 
muted  by  conscience  into  loyalties  and  duties,  and  we 
become  "  persons  "  or  masks.  Art,  truth,  and  death  turn 
everything  to  marble. 

That  life  should  be  able  to  reach  such  expression  in  the 
realm  of  eternal  form  is  a  sublime  and  wonderful  privilege, 
but  it  is  tragic,  and  for  that  reason  distasteful  to  the  animal 
in  man.  A  mask  is  not  responsive  ;  you  must  not  speak  to 
it  as  to  a  living  person,  you  must  not  kiss  it.  If  you  do, 
you  will  find  the  cold  thing  repulsive  and  ghastly.  It  is 
only  a  husk,  empty,  eyeless,  brittle,  and  glazed.  fThe  more 
comic  its  expression  the  more  horrible  it  will  prove,  being 
that  of  a  corpse.  The  animal  in  man  responds  to  things 
according  to  their  substance,  edible,  helpful,  or  plastic  ;  his 
only  joy  is  to  push  his  way  victoriously  through  the  material 
world,  till  a  death  stops  him  which  he  never  thought  of  and, 
in  a  sense,  never  experiences.  He  is  not  in  the  least 
interested  in  picturing  what  he  is  or  what  he  will  have 
been  ;  he  is  intent  only  on  what  is  happening  to  him  now 
'.or  may  happen  to  him  next.  But  when  the  passions  see 
/  themselves  in  the  mirror  of  reflection,  what  they  behold  is  a 
|  tragic  mask.  This  is  the  escutcheon  of  human  nature,  in 
*  which  its  experience  is  emblazoned.  In  so  far  as  men  are 
men  at  all,  or  men  of  honour,  they  militate  under  this 
standard  and  are  true  to  their  colours.  Whatever  refuses 
to  be  idealized  in  this  way,  they  are  obliged  to  disown  and 
commit  to  instant  oblivion.  It  will  never  do  for  a  mind 
merely  to  live  through  its  passions  or  its  perceptions  ;  it 
must  discern  recognizable  objects,  in  which  to  centre  its 
experience  and  its  desires  ;  it  must  choose  names  and 
signs  for  them,  and  these  names  and  symbols,  if  they  are 
to  perform  their  function  in  memory  and  intercourse,  must 
be  tightly  conventional.  What  could  be  more  unseemly 
than  a  fault  in  grammar,  or  in  many  a  case  more  laughable 
and  disconcerting  ?  Yet  any  solecism,  if  it  were  once 
stereotyped  and  made  definitely  significant,  would  become 


an  idiom  :   it  would  become  a  good  verbal  mask.    What  is 
not  covered  in  this  way  by  some  abiding  symbol  can  never 
be  recovered  ;   the  dark  flood  of  existence  carries  it  down 
bodily.    Only  in  some  word  or  conventional  image  can  thel 
secret  of  one  moment  be  flashed  to  another  moment ;   and} 
even  when  there  is  no  one  ready  to  receive  the  message, ; 
or  able  to  decipher  it,  at  least  the  poet  in  his  soliloquy  has  • 
uttered  his  mind  and  raised  his  monument  in  his  own  eyes  ; 
and  in  expressing  his  life  he  has  found  it. 


THE  clown  is  the  primitive  comedian.  Sometimes  in  the 
exuberance  of  animal  life  a  spirit  of  riot  and  frolic  comes 
over  a  man  ;  he  leaps,  he  dances,  he  tumbles  head  over 
heels,  he  grins,  shouts,  or  leers,  possibly  he  pretends  to  go 
to  pieces  suddenly,  and  blubbers  like  a  child.  A  moment 
later  he  may  look  up  wreathed  in  smiles,  and  hugely 
pleased  about  nothing.  All  this  he  does  hysterically, 
without  any  reason,  by  a  sort  of  mad  inspiration  and 
irresistible  impulse.  He  may  easily,  however,  turn  his 
absolute  histrionic  impulse,  his  pure  fooling,  into  mimicry 
of  anything  or  anybody  that  at  the  moment  happens  to 
impress  his  senses  ;  he  will  crow  like  a  cock,  simper  like  a 
young  lady,  or  reel  like  a  drunkard.  Such  mimicry  is 
virtual  mockery,  because  the  actor  is  able  to  revert  from 
those  assumed  attitudes  to  his  natural  self  ;  whilst  his 
models,  as  he  thinks,  have  no  natural  self  save  that  imitable 
attitude,  and  can  never  disown  it ;  so  that  the  clown  feels 
himself  immensely  superior,  in  his  role  of  universal  satirist, 
to  all  actual  men,  and  belabours  and  rails  at  them  unmerci 
fully.  He  sees  everything  in  caricature,  because  he  sees  the 
surface  only,  with  the  lucid  innocence  of  a  child  ;  and  all 
these  grotesque  personages  stimulate  him,  not  to  moral 
sympathy,  nor  to  any  consideration  of  their  fate,  but  rather 
to  boisterous  sallies,  as  the  rush  of  a  crowd,  or  the  hue  and 
cry  of  a  hunt,  or  the  contortions  of  a  jumping- jack  might 
stimulate  him.  He  is  not  at  all  amused  intellectually ;  he 


is  not  rendered  wiser  or  tenderer  by  knowing  the  predica 
ments  into  which  people  inevitably  fall ;  he  is  merely 
excited,  flushed,  and  challenged  by  an  absurd  spectacle. 
Of  course  this  rush  and  suasion  of  mere  existence  must 
never  fail  on  the  stage,  nor  in  any  art ;  it  is  to  the  drama 
what  the  hypnotizing  stone  block  is  to  the  statue,  or 
shouts  and  rhythmic  breathing  to  the  bard  ;  but  such 
primary  magical  influences  may  be  qualified  by  reflection, 
and  then  rational  and  semi-tragic  unities  will  supervene. 
When  this  happens  the  histrionic  impulse  creates  the  idyl 
or  the  tragic  chorus  ;  henceforth  the  muse  of  reflection 
follows  in  the  train  of  Dionysus,  and  the  revel  or  the  rude 
farce  passes  into  humane  comedy. 

Paganism  was  full  of  scruples  and  superstitions  in  matters 
of  behaviour  or  of  cultus,  since  the  cultus  too  was  regarded 
as  a  business  or  a  magic  craft  ;  but  in  expression,  in 
reflection,  paganism  was  frank  and  even  shameless  ;  it  felt 
itself  inspired,  and  revered  this  inspiration.  It  saw  nothing 
impious  in  inventing  or  recasting  a  myth  about  no  matter 
how  sacred  a  subject.  Its  inspiration,  however,  soon  fell 
into  classic  moulds,  because  the  primary  impulses  of  nature, 
though  intermittent,  are  monotonous  and  clearly  defined, 
as  are  the  gestures  of  love  and  of  anger.  A  man  who  is 
unaffectedly  himself  turns  out  to  be  uncommonly  like  other 
people.  Simple  sincerity  will  continually  rediscover  the 
old  right  ways  of  thinking  and  speaking,  and  will  be  perfectly 
conventional  without  suspecting  it.  This  classic  iteration 
comes  of  nature,  it  is  not  the  consequence  of  any  revision 
or  censorship  imposed  by  reason.  Reason,  not  being 
responsible  for  any  of  the  facts  or  passions  that  enter  into 
human  life,  has  no  interest  in  maintaining  them  as  they 
are  ;  any  novelty,  even  the  most  revolutionary,  would 
merely  afford  reason  a  fresh  occasion  for  demanding  a 
fresh  harmony.  But  the  Old  Adam  is  conservative  ;  he 
repeats  himself  mechanically  in  every  child  who  cries  and 
loves  sweets  and  is  imitative  and  jealous.  Reason,  with 
its  tragic  discoveries  and  restraints,  is  a  far  more  precarious 
and  personal  possession  than  the  trite  animal  experience 
and  the  ancestral  grimaces  on  which  it  supervenes  ;  and 
automatically  even  the  philosopher  continues  to  cut  his 
old  comic  capers,  as  if  no  such  thing  as  reason  existed.  The 


wiseacres  too  are  comic,  and  their  mask  is  one  of  the  most 
harmlessly  amusing  in  the  human  museum  ;  for  reason, 
taken  psychologically,  is  an  old  inherited  passion  like  any 
other,  the  passion  for  consistency  and  order  ;  and  it  is  just 
as  prone  as  the  other  passions  to  overstep  the  modesty  of 
nature  and  to  regard  its  own  aims  as  alone  important.  But 
this  is  ridiculous  ;  because  importance  springs  from  the 
stress  of  nature,  from  the  cry  of  life,  not  from  reason  and 
its  pale  prescriptions.  Reason  cannot  stand  alone  ;  brute 
habit  and  blind  play  are  at  the  bottom  of  art  and  morals, 
and  unless  irrational  impulses  and  fancies  are  kept  alive, 
the  life  of  reason  collapses  for  sheer  emptiness.  What 
tragedy  could  there  be,  or  what  sublime  harmonies  rising 
out  of  tragedy,  if  there  were  no  spontaneous  passions  to 
create  the  issue,  no  wild  voices  to  be  reduced  to  harmony  ?, 
(Moralists  have  habitually  aimed  at  suppression,  wisely 
perhaps  at  first,  when  they  were  preaching  to  men  of 
spirit  ;  but  why  continue  to  harp  on  propriety  and 
unselfishness  and  labour,  when  we  are  little  but  labour- 
machines  already,  and  have  hardly  any  self  or  any  passions  • 
left  to  indulge  ?1  Perhaps  the  time  has  come  to  suspend 
those  exhortations,  and  to  encourage  us  to  be  sometimes 
a  little  lively,  and  see  if  we  can  invent  something  worth 
saying  or  doing.  We  should  then  be  living  in  the  spirit  of 
comedy,  and  the  world  would  grow  young.  Every  occasion 
would  don  its  comic  mask,  and  make  its  bold  grimace  at^ 
the  world  for  a  moment.  We  should  be  constantly  original" 
without  effort  and  without  shame,  somewhat  as  we  are  in 
dreams,  and  consistent  only  in  sincerity  ;  and  we  should 
gloriously  emphasize  all  the  poses  we  fell  into,  without 
seeking  to  prolong  them. 

Objections  to  the  comic  mask — to  the  irresponsible, 
'complete,  extreme  expression  of  each  moment — cut  at  the 
roots  of  all  expression.  Pursue  this  path,  and  at  once  you 
do  away  with  gesture  :  we  must  not  point,  we  must  not 
pout,  we  must  not  cry,  we  must  not  laugh  aloud  ;  we 
must  not  only  avoid  attracting  attention,  but  our 
attention  must  not  be  obviously  attracted  ;  it  is  silly 
to  gaze,  says  the  nursery-governess,  and  rude  to  stare. 
Presently  words,  too,  will  be  reduced  to  a  telegraphic 
code.  A  man  in  his  own  country  will  talk  like  the  laconic 


tourist  abroad  ;  his  whole  vocabulary  will  be  Ou  ?  Com- 
bienP  All  right!  Dear  me!  Conversation  in  the  quiet 
home  will  dispense  even  with  these  phrases ;  nothing 
will  be  required  but  a  few  pragmatic  grunts  and  signals 
for  action.  Where  the  spirit  of  comedy  has  departed, 
company  becomes  constraint,  reserve  eats  up  the  spirit, 
and  people  fall  into  a  penurious  melancholy  in  their 
scruple  to  be  always  exact,  sane,  and  reasonable,  never 
to  mourn,  never  to  glow,  never  to  betray  a  passion  or  a 
weakness,  nor  venture  to  utter  a  thought  they  might  not 
wish  to  harbour  for  ever. 

Yet  irony  pursues  these  enemies  of  comedy,  and  for 
fear  of  wearing  a  mask  for  a  moment  they  are  hypocrites  all 
their  lives.  Their  very  reserve  becomes  a  pose,  a  convention 
imposed  externally,  and  their  mincing  speech  turns  to  cant. 
Sometimes  this  evasion  of  impulsive  sentiment  fosters  a 
poignant  sentimentality  beneath.  The  comedy  goes  on 
silently  behind  the  scenes,  until  perhaps  it  gets  the  upper 
1  hand  and  becomes  positive  madness  ;  or  else  it  breaks  out 
in  some  shy,  indirect  fashion,  as  among  Americans  with 

1  their  perpetual  joking.  Where  there  is  no  habitual  art  and 
no  moral  liberty,  the  instinct  for  direct  expression  is 
atrophied  for  want  of  exercise  ;  and  then  slang  and  a 
humorous  perversity  of  phrase  or  manner  act  as  safety- 
valves  to  sanity  ;  and  you  manage  to  express  yourself 
in  spite  of  the  censor  by  saying  something  grotesquely 
different  from  what  you  mean.  Jhat  is  a  long  way  round 
to  sincerity,  and  an  ugly  one/  What,  on  the  contrary, 
could  be  more  splendidly  sincere  tnan  the  impulse  to  play 
in  real  life,  to  rise  on  the  rising  wave  of  every  feeling  and 
let  it  burst,  if  it  will,  into  the  foam  of  exaggeration  ?  Life 
is  not  a  means,  the  mind  is  not  a  slave  nor  a  photograph  : 
it  has  a  right  to  enact  a  pose,  to  assume  a  panache,  and  to 
create  what  prodigious  allegories  it  will  for  the  mere  sport 
and  glory  of  it.  Nor  is  this  art  of  innocent  make-believe 
forbidden  in  the  Decalogue,  although  Bible-reading  Anglo- 
Saxondom  might  seem  to  think  so.  On  the  contrary,  the 
Bible  and  the  Decalogue  are  themselves  instances  of  it.  To 
embroider  upon  experience  is  not  to  bear  false  witness 
against  one's  neighbour,  but  to  bear  true  witness  to  oneself. 
Fancy  is  playful  and  may  be  misleading  to  those  who  try 


to  take  it  for  literal  fact ;  but  literalness  is  impossible  in 
any  utterance  of  spirit,  and  if  it  were  possible  it  would  be 
deadly.  Why  should  we  quarrel  with  human  nature,  with 
metaphor,  with  myth,  with  impersonation  ?  The  foolish 
ness  of  the  simple  is  delightful ;  only  the  foolishness  of  the 
wise  is  exasperating. 


IN  this  world  we  must  either  institute  conventional  forms 
of  expression  or  else  pretend  that  we  have  nothing  to 
express  ;  the  choice  lies  between  a  mask  and  a  fig-leaf. 
Art  and  discipline  render  seemly  what  would  be  unseemly 
without  them,  but  hypocrisy  hides  it  ostentatiously  under 
something  irrelevant,  and  the  fig-leaf  is  only  a  more 
ignominious  mask.  For  the  moment  it  is  certainly  easier 
to  suppress  the  wild  impulses  of  our  nature  than  to 
manifest  them  fitly,  at  the  right  times  and  with  the  proper 
fugitive  emphasis  ;  yet  in  the  long  run  suppression  does 
not,  solve  the  problem,  and  meantime  those  maimed 
expressions  which  are  allowed  are  infected  with  a  secret 
misery  and  falseness.  It  is  the  charm  and  safety  of  virtue 
that  it  is  more  natural  than  vice,  but  many  moralists  do 
their  best  to  deprive  it  of  this  advantage.)  They  seem  to 
think  it  would  lose  its  value  if  they  lost  their  office.  Their 
precepts,  as  distinguished  from  the  spontaneous  apprecia 
tions  of  men,  are  framed  in  the  interests  of  utility,  and  are 
curiously  out  of  sympathy  with  the  soul.  Precept  divides 
the  moral  world  materially  into  right  and  wrong  things  ; 
but  nothing  concrete  is  right  or  wrong  intrinsically,  and 
every  object  or  event  has  both  good  and  bad  effects  in  the 
context  of  nature.  Every  passion,  like  life  as  a  whole, 
has  its  feet  in  one  moral  climate  and  its  head  in  another. 
Existence  itself  is  not  a  good,  but  only  an  opportunity. 
Christians  thank  God  for  their  creation,  preservation,  and 
all  the  blessings  of  this  life,  but  life  is  the  condition  and 
source  of  all  evil,  and  the  Indians  thank  Brahma  or  Buddha 
for  lifting  them  out  of  it.  What  metaphysical  psychologists 
call  Will  is  the  great  original  sin,  the  unaccountable  and 


irrational  interest  which  the  spirit  takes,  when  it  is  incarnate, 
in  one  thing  happening  rather  than  another  ;  yet  this  mad 

'  I  interest  is  the  condition  of  generosity  and  of  every  virtue. 

I  Love  is  a  red  devil  at  one  end  of  its  spectrum  and  an  ultra- 

I  violet  angel  at  the  other  end. 

Nor  is  this  amphibious  moral  quality  limited  to  the 
passions  ;  all  facts  and  objects  in  nature  can  take  on 
opposite  moral  tints.  When  abstracted  from  our  own 
presence  and  interests,  everything  that  can  be  found  or 
imagined  is  reduced  to  a  mere  essence,  an  ideal  theme 
picked  out  of  the  infinite,  something  harmless,  marvellous, 
and  pure,  like  a  musical  rhythm  or  geometrical  design. 
The  whole  world  then  becomes  a  labyrinth  of  forms  and 
motions,  a  castle  in  the  clouds  built  without  labour  and 
dissolved  without  tears.  The  moment  the  animal  will 
reawakes,  however,  these  same  things  acquire  a  new 
dimension  ;  they  become  substantial,  not  to  be  created 
without  effort  nor  rent  without  resistance  ;  at  the  same 
time  they  become  objects  of  desire  and  fear ;  we  are  so 
engrossed  in  existence  that  every  phenomenon  becomes 
questionable  and  ominous,  and  not  so  much  a  free  gift 
and  manifestation  of  its  own  nature  as  a  piece  of  good  or 
bad  news.  We  are  no  longer  surprised,  as  a  free  spirit 
would  be,  at  the  extraordinary  interest  we  take  in  things 
turning  out  one  way  rather  than  another.  We  are  caught 
in  the  meshes  of  time  and  place  and  care  ;  and  as  the 
things  we  have  set  our  heart  on,  whatever  they  may  be, 
must  pass  away  in  the  end,  either  suddenly  or  by  a  gentle 

'/transformation,  we  cannot  take  a  long  view  without  finding 
life  sad,  and  all  things  tragic.  This  aspect  of  vanity  and 
self-annihilation,  which  existence  wears  when  we  consider 
its  destiny,  is  not  to  be  denied  or  explained  away,  as  is 
sometimes  attempted  in  cowardly  and  mincing  philosophies. 
It  is  a  true  aspect  of  existence  in  one  relation  and  on  a 
certain  view ;  but  to  take  this  long  view  of  existence,  and 
look  down  the  avenues  of  time  from  the  station  and  with 
the  emotions  of  some  particular  moment,  is  by  no  means 
inevitable,  noz-ialt  a  fair  and  sympathetic  way  of  viewing 
existence.  Things  when  they  are  actual  do  not  lie  in  that 
sort  of  sentimental  perspective,  but  each  is  centred  in 
itself ;  and  in  this  intrinsic  aspect  existence  is  nothing 


*t  <> 


tragic  or  sad,  but  rather  something  joyful,  hearty,  and 
merry.  A  buoyant  and  full-blooded  soul  has  quick  senses 
and  miscellaneous  sympathies  :  it  changes  with  the 
changing  world;  and  when  not  too  much  starved  or 
thwarted  by  circumstances,  it  finds  all  things  vivid  and 
comic.  Life  is  free  play  fundamentally  and  would  like  to 
be  free  play  altogether.  In  youth  anything  is  pleasant  to 
see  or  to  do,  so  long  as  it  is  spontaneous,  and  if  the 
conjunction  of  these  things  is  ridiculous,  so  much  the 
better  :  to  be  ridiculous  is  part  of  the  fun. 

Existence  involves  changes  and  happenings  and  is  comic 
inherently,  like  a  pun  that  begins  with  one  meaning  and 
ends  with  another.  Incongruity  is  a  consequence  of  change  ; 
and  this  incongruity  becomes  especially  conspicuous  when, 
as  in  the  flux  of  nature,  change  is  going  on  at  different 
rates  in  different  strands  of  being,  so  that  not  only  does 
each  thing  surprise  itself  by  what  it  becomes,  but  it  is 
continually  astonished  and  disconcerted  by  what  other 
things  have  turned  into  without  its  leave.  The  mishaps, 
the  expedients,  the  merry  solutions  of  comedy,  in  which 
everybody  acknowledges  himself  beaten  and  deceived,  yet 
is  the  happier  for  the  unexpected  posture  of  affairs,  belong 
to  the  very  texture  of  temporal  being  ;  and  if  people  repine 
at  these  mishaps,  or  rebel  against  these  solutions,  it  is  only 
because  their  souls  are  less  plastic  and  volatile  than  the 
general  flux  of  nature.  The  individual  grows  old  and  lags 
behind  ;  he  remembers  his  old  pain  and  resents  it  when 
the  world  is  already  on  a  new  tack.  In  the  jumble  of 
existence  there  must  be  many  a  knock  and  many  a  grief  ; 
people  living  at  cross  purposes  cannot  be  free  from  malice, 
and  they  must  needs  be  fooled  by  their  pretentious  passions. 
But  there  is  no  need  of  taking  these  evils  tragically.  At 
bottom  they  are  gratuitous,  and  might  have  been  avoided 
if  people  had  not  pledged  their  hearts  to  things  beyond 
their  control  and  had  not  entrenched  themselves  in  their 
illusions.  At  a  sufficient  remove  every  drama  seems 
pathological  and  makes  much  ado  about  what  to  other 
people  is  nothing.  We  are  interested  in  those  vicissitudes, 
which  we  might  have  undergone  if  placed  under  the  given 
circumstances  ;  but  we  are  happy  to  have  escaped  them. 
Thus  the  universe  changes  its  hues  like  the  chameleon,  not 


at  random  but  in  a  fashion  which  moral  optics  can  deter 
mine,  as  it  appears  in  one  perspective  or  another  ;  for 
everything  in  nature  is  lyrical  in  its  ideal  essence,  tragic 
in  its  fate,  and  comic  in  its  existence. 

Existence  is  indeed  distinguishable  from  the  platonic 
essences  that  are  embodied  in  it  precisely  by  being  a 
conjunction  of  things  mutually  irrelevant,  a  chapter 
of  accidents,  a  medley  improvised  here  and  now  for 
no  reason,  to  the  exclusion  of  the  myriad  other  farces 
which,  so  far  as  their  ideal  structure  is  concerned,  might 
have  been  performed  just  as  well.  This  world  is  contin- 
i;  gency  and  absurdity  incarnate,  the  oddest  of  possibilities 
\  masquerading  momentarily  as  a  fact.  Custom  blinds 
1  persons  who  are  not  naturally  speculative  to  the  egregious 
character  of  the  actual,  because  custom  assimilates  their 
expectations  to  the  march  of  existing  things  and  deadens 
their  power  to  imagine  anything  different.  But  wherever 
the  routine  of  a  barbaric  life  is  broken  by  the  least  ac 
quaintance  with  larger  ways,  the  arbitrariness  of  the 
actual  begins  to  be  discovered.  The  traveller  will  first 
learn  that  his  native  language  is  not  the  only  one,  nor 
the  best  possible,  nor  itself  constant ;  then,  perhaps,  he 
will  understand  that  the  same  is  true  of  his  home  religion 
and  government.  The  naturalist  will  begin  by  marvelling 
at  the  forms  and  habits  of  the  lower  animals,  while  con 
tinuing  to  attribute  his  own  to  their  obvious  propriety  ; 
later  the  heavens  and  the  earth,  and  all  physical  laws,  will 
strike  him  as  paradoxically  arranged  and  unintelligible ; 
and  ultimately  the  very  elements  oi  existence  —  time, 
change,  matter,  habit,  life  cooped  in  bodies — will  reveal 
themselves  to  him  in  their  extreme  oddity,  so  that,  unless 
he  has  unusual  humility  and  respect  for  fact,  he  will 
probably  declare  all  these  actual  things  to  be  impossible 
and  therefore  unreal.  The  most  profound  philosophers 
accordingly  deny  that  any  of  those  things  exist  which  we 
find  existing,  and  maintain  that  the  only  reality  is  change 
less,  infinite,  and  indistinguishable  into  parts  ;  and  I  call 
them  the  most  profound  philosophers  in  spite  of  this  obvious 
folly  of  theirs,  because  they  are  led  into  it  by  the  force  of 
intense  reflection,  which  discloses  to  them  that  what 
exists  is  unintelligible  and  has  no  reason  for  existing  ;  and 


since  their  moral  and  religious  prejudices  do  not  allow 
them  to  say  that  to  be  irrational  and  unintelligible  is  the 
character  proper  to  existence,  they  are  driven  to  the 
alternative  of  saying  that  existence  is  illusion  and  that 
the  only  reality  is  something  beneath  or  above  existence. 
That  real  existence  should  be  radically  comic  never  occurs 
to  these  solemn  sages  ;  they  are  without  one  ray  of  humour 
and  are  persuaded  that  the  universe  too  must  be  without 
one.  Yet  there  is  a  capital  joke  in  their  own  systems, 
which  prove  that  nothing  exists  so  strenuously,  that 
existence  laughs  aloud  in  their  vociferations  and  drowns 
the  argument.  Their  conviction  is  the  very  ghost  which  it 
rises  to  exorcise  ;  yet  the  conviction  and  the  exorcism 
remain  impressive,  because  they  bear  witness  to  the 
essential  strangeness  of  existence  to  the  spirit.  Like 
the  Ghost  in  Hamlet  this  apparition,  this  unthinkable 
fact,  is  terribly  disturbing  and  emphatic  ;  it  cries  to  us 
in  a  hollow  voice,  "  Swear  !  "  and  when  in  an  agony  of 
concern  and  affection  we  endeavour  to  follow  it,  "  Tis 
here  !  'Tis  here  !  'Tis  gone  !  "  Certainly  existence  can; 
bewitch  us  ;  it  can  compel  us  to  cry  as  well  as  to  laugh  ;\ 
it  can  hurt,  and  that  is  its  chief  claim  to  respect.  Its 
cruelty,  however,  is  as  casual  as  its  enchantments ;  it  is 
not  cruel  on  purpose  but  only  rough,  like  thoughtless  boys. 
Coarseness — and  existence  is  hopelessly  coarse — is  not  an 
evil  unless  we  demand  refinement.  A  giggling  lass  that; 
peeps  at  us  through  her  fingers  is  well  enough  in  her  sphere, 
but  we  should  not  have  begun  by  calling  her  Dulcinea. 
Dulcinea  is  a  pure  essence,  and  dwells  only  in  that  realm. 
Existence  should  be  met  on  its  own  terms  ;  we  may  dance 
a  round  with  it,  and  perhaps  steal  a  kiss  ;  but  it  tempts 
only  to  flout  us,  not  being  dedicated  to  any  constant  love. 
As  if  to  acknowledge  how  groundless  existence  is,  every 
thing  that  arises  instantly  backs  away,  bowing  its  excuses, 
and  saying,  "  My  mistake  !  "  It  suffers  from  a  sort  of 
original  sin  or  congenital  tendency  to  cease  from  being. 
This  is  what  Heraclitus  called  A 1/07,  or  just  punishment ; 
because,  as  Mephistopheles  long  afterwards  added,  alles 
was  entsteht  ist  wert  dass  es  zugrunde  geht — whatsoever 
arises  deserves  to  perish  ;  not  of  course  because  what 
arises  is  not  often  a  charming  creation,  but  because  it  has 


no  prerogative  to  exist  not  shared  by  every  Cinderella-like 
essence  that  lies  eternally  neglected  in  that  limbo  to  which 
all  things  intrinsically  belong — the  limbo  of  unheard 
melodies  and  uncreated  worlds.  For  anything  to  emerge 
from  that  twilight  region  is  inexplicable  and  comic,  like 
the  popping  up  of  Jack-in-the-box ;  and  the  shock  will 
amuse  us,  if  our  wits  are  as  nimble  as  nature  and  as  quick 
as  time.  We  too  exist ;  and  existence  is  a  joy  to  the 
sportive  side  of  our  nature,  itself  akin  to  a  shower  of 
sparks  and  a  patter  of  irrevocable  adventures.  What 
indeed  could  be  more  exhilarating  than  such  a  rout,  if 
only  we  are  not  too  exacting,  and  do  not  demand  of  it 
irrelevant  perfections  ?  The  art  of  life  is  to  keep  step  with 
the  celestial  orchestra  that  beats  the  measure  of  our  career, 
and  gives  the  cue  for  our  exits  and  our  entrances.  Why 
should  we  willingly  miss  anything,  or  precipitate  anything, 
or  be  angry  with  folly,  or  in  despair  at  any  misadventure  ? 
In  this  world  there  should  be  none  but  gentle  tears,  and 
fluttering  tip-toe  loves.  It  is  a  great  Carnival,  and  amongst 
these  lights  and  shadows  of  comedy,  these  roses  and  vices 
of  the  playhouse,  there  is  no  abiding. 


NATURE,  which  is  far  more  resourceful  than  logic,  has 
found  a  way  out  of  the  contradiction  between  the  human 
need  for  expression  and  the  British  distaste  for  personal 
outbursts.  This  way  is  rambling  fiction.  When  out  of 
shyness,  or  because  they  have  shocked  each  other,  the  inner 
man  and  the  outer  man  are  not  on  speaking  terms,  loud 
language  and  vehement  gestures  are  incompatible  with 
depth  of  feeling.  What  lies  deep  must  in  such  a  case 
remain  unexpressed,  and  will  seem  inexpressible.  A  man's 
heart  will  be  revealed,  even  to  himself,  only  in  long 
stretches  of  constant  endeavour  and  faithful  habit : 
towards  the  end  of  his  life  he  may  begin  to  discern  his 
ruling  motives.  In  the  meantime,  however,  his  fancy 
may  have  played  at  self-revelation  ;  he  may  have  indulged 

QUEEN  MAB  145 

in  day-dreams  and  romantic  transformations  of  himself, 
as  boys  do  ;  and  without  pledging  his  real  person  too  much 
he  may  have  made  trial  of  candour,  or,  if  need  be,  of 
extravagance,  in  imaginary  substitutes  for  himself,  thus 
trying  the  paces  of  his  inner  man  without  cheapening  his 
secret  feelings  or  publishing  them  in  common  and  second 
hand  terms.  Such  a  man  will  talk  little  about  himself  ; 
his  opinions  and  preferences  will  not  be  very  explicit, 
but  he  will  privily  nurse  and  develop  them  by  endless 
variations  played  upon  them  in  fancy,  as  he  reads  or  perhaps 
writes  a  book  of  fiction  by  his  chimney  corner.  He  will 
dream  of  what  Queen  Mab  makes  other  people  dream. 

Romantic  fiction  is  a  bypath  of  expression  ;  it  meanders 
through  fields  of  possible  experience  that  stretch  harmlessly 
between  the  highroads  of  actual  lives,  far  from  the  precipices 
of  private  and  public  passions.  The  labyrinth  is  infinite, 
but  the  path  chosen  in  it  is  always  traceable  by  a  sort  of 
Ariadne's  thread  spun  out  of  the  poet's  heart.  He  means 
to  forget  himself  and  to  feign  some  charming  monster  in 
some  picturesque  landscape,  the  more  exotic  the  better ; 
but  in  doing  so  he  obeys  the  dream-impulses  of  his  own 
soul,  and  recasts  or  corrects  the  images  supplied  by  his 
experience.  His  very  extravagances  and  hectic  concentra 
tion  of  fancy  betray  him  ;  they  manifest  his  impatience, 
his  affections,  his  potentialities  ;  for  he  paints  what  he 
can  conceive  and  what  fascinates  him  in  conceiving  it. 
That  which  he  might  have  been,  and  was  not,  comforts 
him.  Such  a  form  of  self-expression,  indirect,  bashful, 
and  profoundly  humorous,  being  play  rather  than  art, 
is  alone  congenial  to  the  British  temperament ;  it  is  the 
soul  of  English  literature.  Like  English  politics  and 
religion,  it  breathes  tolerance,  plasticity,  waywardness, 
infinitude  ;  it  is  tender  and  tentative,  shapeless  and  guile 
less.  Its  straggling  march  forms  a  vast  national  soliloquy, 
rich  in  casual  touches,  in  alternatives,  in  contrasts,  in 
suspended  themes  ;  the  plot  grows  out  of  the  episodes,  it 
is  always  being  remodelled  and  always  to  be  continued. 
The  facts,  though  much  talked  of  in  detail,  are  never  faced 
as  a  whole,  nor  is  the  soul  ever  gathered  together  to 
pronounce  upon  them  ;  the  whole  procedure  is  a  subter 
fuge,  and  may  be  easily  disparaged  by  people  with  other 


gifts  and  aspirations.  Intelligence  certainly  does  not 
dominate  it ;  its  conclusions,  when  it  reaches  conclusions, 
are  false,  and  its  methods  cumbrous  ;  and  foreigners  who 
adopt  them  are  catching  only  the  vices  of  their  model. 
But  its  virtues  are  transcendent ;  if  the  mind  of  England 
is  wrapped  in  mists,  it  is  touched  with  ethereal  colours ; 
and  who  shall  measure  the  benign  influences,  the  lights, 
the  manliness,  the  comforts,  the  moral  sanity  that  have 
spread  from  it  through  the  world  ?  Its  very  incapacities 
are  full  of  promise  ;  it  closes  no  doors  ;  it  is  the  one 
fountain  of  kindly  liberty  on  earth.  The  Englishman's 
prejudices  are  so  obviously  prejudices  as  to  be  almost 
innocent,  and  even  amiable ;  his  consecrated  formulas 
(for  of  course  he  has  them)  are  frankly  inadequate  and 
half  humorous  ;  he  would  not  have  you  suppose  he  has 
said  his  all,  nor  his  last  word.  He  is  jealous  of  preserving, 
far  from  public  observation  or  censure,  the  free  play  of 
his  potential  sentiments  ;  from  thence  he  will  occasionally 
fetch  some  scrap  of  a  word,  or  let  slip  some  hint  of  emotion  ; 
he  will  only  murmur  or  suggest  or  smile  his  loves.  Every 
body  dislikes  a  caricature  of  himself  ;  and  the  Englishman 
feels  (I  think  justly)  that  any  figure  a  man  can  cut  in  other 
people's  eyes  is  a  caricature.  Therefore,  if  there  is  any 
thing  in  him,  he  fears  to  betray  it ;  and  if  there  is  nothing 
in  him,  he  fears  to  betray  that ;  and  in  either  case  he  is 
condemned  to  diffidence  and  shyness.  He  wishes  you  to 
let  him  alone  ;  perhaps  if  you  do  he  may  presently  tell 
you,  about  quite  another  imaginary  person,  some  vivid 
and  tender  story. 

This  story  may  be  a  fairy  tale  or  it  may  be  a  piece 
of  realistic  fiction,  in  which  the  experiences  of  sundry 
characters,  as  different  as  possible  from  oneself  and  from 
one  another,  are  imagined  and  lived  through.  The  author 
may  fairly  say  that  these  creations  are  not  masks  for  his 
own  person  ;  it  is  expressly  not  his  own  feelings  that  he 
is  evoking  and  developing.  He  is  fancying  other  feelings  ; 
and  yet,  as  this  fancy  and  the  magic  life  it  constitutes  are 
necessarily  his  own,  his  mind  is  being  secretly  agitated 
and  relieved  by  these  fictions  ;  and  his  sensibility,  instead 
of  being  sublimated  into  some  ultimate  tragic  passion,  is 
diffused  over  a  thousand  picturesque  figures  and  adventures 

QUEEN  MAB  147 

with  which  he  acknowledges  no  moral  kinship,  save  such 
as  is  requisite  for  a  lively  interest  in  them  and  a  minute 
portrayal.  It  is  only  by  accident  that  any  of  his  poetic 
offspring  may  resemble  their  parent.  What  cares  he  what 
curious  eye  may  note  their  deformity  ?  He  need  not  blush 
for  them.  He  may  even  be  bent  on  unmasking  and  fiercely 
condemning  them,  as  a  scrupulous  penitent  is  bent  on 
ferreting  out  and  denouncing  his  real  or  fancied  sins.  In 
the  most  searching  truth  of  fiction  there  is  accordingly 
no  indiscretion  ;  the  author's  inmost  and  least  avowable 
feelings  may  be  uttered  through  it  without  reserve.  Like 
a  modest  showman  behind  the  curtain  of  his  booth,  he 
manipulates  his  marionettes  and  speaks  for  them  in  a 
feigned  voice,  by  a  sort  of  ventriloquy.  Here  is  no  religious 
tragedy,  no  distilled  philosophy,  no  overarching  cosmic 
myth.  The  scale  is  pleasantly  small  and  the  tone  familiar, 
though  the  sum  of  the  parts  may  fade  into  the  infinite. 
We  do  not  find  in  this  complicated  dream  any  life  greater 
than  our  own  or  less  accidental.  We  do  not  need  to  out 
grow  ourselves  in  order  to  understand  it ;  no  one  summons 
us  to  pause,  to  recant,  to  renounce  any  part  of  our  being. 
On  the  contrary,  we  simply  unwind  our  own  reel ;  we  play 
endlessly  at  living,  and  in  this  second  visionary  life  we 
survive  all  catastrophes,  and  we  exchange  one  character 
for  another  without  carrying  over  any  load  of  memory 
or  habit  or  fate.  We  seem  still  to  undergo  the  vicissitudes 
of  a  moral  world,  but  without  responsibility. 

Queen  Mab  is  a  naughty  sprite,  full  of  idle  curiosity 
and  impartial  laughter.  When  she  flutters  over  the 
roofs  of  cities,  she  is  no  angel  with  a  mission,  coming  to 
sow  there  some  chosen  passion  or  purpose  of  her  own  ; 
nor  does  she  gather  from  those  snoring  mortals  any 
collective  sentiment  or  aspiration,  such  as  a  classic  muse 
might  render  articulate,  or  such  as  religion  or  war  or 
some  consecrated  school  of  art  might  embody.  She  steals 
wilily  like  a  stray  moonbeam  into  every  crack  and  dark 
old  corner  of  the  earth.  Her  deft  touch,  as  she  pretends, 
sets  all  men  dreaming,  each  after  his  own  heart ;  but  like 
other  magicians,  she  is  a  fraud.  Those  garden  fancies 
about  her  fairy  equipage  are  all  a  joke  to  amuse  the 
children  ;  her  wings  are,  in  reality,  far  finer  than  gossamer, 


and  the  Equivocation  she  rides  on  is  nimbler  than  any 
grasshopper.  All  she  professes  to  spy  out  or  provoke  is 
her  own  merry  invention.  Her  wand  really  works  no 
miracle  and  sets  no  sleeper  dreaming  ;  on  the  contrary, 
it  is  rather  an  electric  spark  from  the  lover's  brain  or  the 
parson's  nose,  as  she  tickles  it,  that  quickens  her  own 
fancy,  and  hatches  there  an  interminable  brood  of  exquisite 
oddities,  each  little  goblin  perfectly  ridiculous,  each  quite 
serious  and  proud  of  its  little  self,  each  battling  bravely 
for  its  little  happiness.  Queen  Mab  is  the  genius  proper 
to  the  art  of  a  nation  whose  sensibility  is  tender,  but 
whose  personal  life  is  drab  and  pale.  To  report,  however 
poetically,  the  events  and  feelings  they  have  actually 
experienced  would  be  dull,  as  dull  as  life  ;  their  imagination 
craves  entertainment  with  something  richer,  more  wayward, 
more  exciting.  Every  one  is  weary  of  his  own  society ; 
the  lifelong  company  of  so  meagre  and  warped  a  creature 
has  become  insufferable.  We  see  that  the  passions  of 
Mercutio  are  potentially  deep  and  vivid  ;  but  they  have 
been  crossed  by  fortune,  and  on  fortune  his  kindly  humour 
mockingly  takes  its  revenge,  by  feigning  no  end  of  parodies 
and  escapades  for  the  ineffable  bright  mischiefs  lurking 
in  his  bosom.  Queen  Mab  is  the  frail  mothlike  emanation 
of  such  a  generous  but  disappointed  mind  ;  her  magic 
lies  in  the  ironical  visions  which,  like  the  dust  of  the  poppy, 
she  can  call  forth  there.  A  Cinderella  at  home,  she  becomes 
a  seer  in  her  midnight  travels.  Hence  Table  Rounds  and 
Ivanhoes  ;  hence  three-volume  novels  about  Becky  Sharps 
and  David  Copperfields.  These  imagined  characters  are 
often  alive,  not  only  because  the  scene  in  which  they  move 
may  be  well  indicated,  with  romantic  absorption  in  the 
picturesque  aspects  of  human  existence,  but  also  because 
their  minds  are  the  author's  mind  dreaming  ;  they  skirt 
the  truth  of  his  inner  man  ;  in  their  fancifulness  or  their 
realism  they  retain  a  secret  reference  to  the  deepest  impulses 
in  himself. 

English  lovers,  I  believe,  seldom  practise  what  in  Spain 
is  called  conjugating  the  verb  ;  they  do  not  spend  hours 
ringing  the  changes  on  I  love,  you  love,  we  love.  This, 
in  their  opinion,  would  be  to  protest  too  much.  They 
prefer  the  method  of  Paolo  and  Francesca  :  they  will 

QUEEN  MAB  149 

sit  reading  out  of  the  same  book,  and  when  they  come  to 
the  kissing,  she  will  say,  "  How  nice  that  is  !"  and  he  will 
reply,  "  Isn't  it  ?  "  and  the  story  will  supply  the  vicarious 
eloquence  of  their  love.  Fiction  and  poetry,  in  some 
supposititious  instance,  report  for  the  Englishman  the 
bashful  truth  about  himself  ;  and  what  English  life  thereby 
misses  in  vivacity,  English  literature  gains  in  wealth,  in 
tenderness,  in  a  rambling  veracity,  and  in  preciousness  to 
the  people's  heart. 


IN  classical  Spanish  drama  the  masks  are  few.  The 
characters  hardly  have  individual  names.  The  lady  in 
Calderon,  for  instance,  if  she  is  not  Beatriz  will  be  Leonor, 
and  under  either  name  so  superlatively  beautiful,  young, 
chaste,  eloquent,  devoted,  and  resourceful,  as  to  be  in 
distinguishable  from  her  namesakes  in  the  other  plays. 
The  hero  is  always  exaggeratedly  in  love,  exaggeratedly 
chivalrous,  and  absolutely  perfect,  save  for  this  heroic 
excess  of  sensitiveness  and  honour.  The  old  father  is 
always  austere,  unyielding,  perverse,  and  sublime.  All 
the  maids  in  attendance  possess  the  same  roguishness,  the 
same  genius  for  intrigue  and  lightning  mendacity  ;  whilst 
the  valet,  whether  called  Crispin  or  Florin,  is  always  a 
faithful  soul  and  a  coward,  with  the  same  quality  of  rather 
forced  humour.  No  diversity  from  play  to  play  save  the 
diversity  in  the  fable,  in  the  angle  at  which  the  stock 
characters  are  exhibited  and  the  occasion  on  which  they 
versify  ;  for  they  all  versify  in  the  same  style,  with  the 
same  inexhaustible  facility,  abundance,  rhetorical  finish, 
and  lyric  fire. 

Why  this  monotony  ?  Did  Spanish  life  afford  fewer 
contrasts,  less  individuality  of  character  and  idiom,  than 
did  the  England  of  Shakespeare  ?  Hardly :  in  Spain 
the  soldier  of  fortune,  the  grandee,  peasant,  monk,  or  pre 
late,  the  rogue,  beggar,  and  bandit  were  surely  as  highly 
characterized  as  anything  to  be  then  found  in  England  ; 
and  Spanish  women  in  their  natural  ardour  of  affection, 


in  their  ready  speech  and  discretion,  in  their  dignity  and 
religious  consecration,  lent  themselves  rather  better,  one 
would  think,  to  the  making  of  heroines  than  did  those 
comparatively  cool  and  boylike  young  ladies  whom  Shake 
speare  transmuted  into  tragic  angels.  I  think  we  may  go 
further  and  say  positively  that  it  was  Spain  rather  than 
England  that  could  have  shown  the  spectacle  of  "  every 
man  in  his  humour." 

Even  in  the  days  before  Puritanism  English  character! 
was  English  ;  it  tended  to  silent  independence  and  outward 
reserve,  preferring  to  ignore  its  opposite  rather  than  to: 
challenge  it.  In  pose  and  expression  the  Spaniard  is| 
naturally  more  theatrical  and  pungent ;  and  his  individu 
ality  itself  is  stiffer.  No  doubt,  in  society,  he  will  simulate 
and  dissimulate  as  an  Englishman  never  would  ;  but  he 
is  prompted  to  this  un-English  habit  by  the  very  fixity 
of  his  purposes  ;  all  his  courtesy  and  loyalty  are  ironical, 
and  inwardly  he  never  yields  an  inch.  He  likes  if  possible 
to  be  statuesque  ;  he  likes  to  appeal  to  his  own  principles 
and  character,  and  to  say,  "  Sir,  whatever  you  may  think 
of  it,  that  is  the  sort  of  man  I  am."  He  has  that  curious 
form  of  self-love  which  inclines  to  parade  even  its  defects, 
as  a  mourner  parades  his  grief.  He  admits  readily  that 
he  is  a  sinner,  and  that  he  means  to  remain  one  ;  he 
composes  his  countenance  proudly  on  that  basis  ;  whereas 
when  English  people  say  they  are  miserable  sinners  (which 
happens  only  in  church)  they  feel  perhaps  that  they  are 
imperfect  or  unlucky,  and  they  may  even  contemplate 
being  somewhat  different  in  future  ;  but  it  never  occurs 
to  them  to  classify  themselves  as  miserable  sinners  for  good, 
with  a  certain  pride  in  their  class,  deliberately  putting  on 
the  mask  of  Satan  or  the  cock's  feather  of  Mephistopheles 
and  saying  to  all  concerned,  "  See  what  a  very  devil  I  am  !  " 
The  Englishman's  sins  are  slips  ;  he  feels  he  was  not  himself 
on  those  occasions,  and  does  not  think  it  fair  to  be  reminded 
of  them.  Though  theology  may  sometimes  have  taught 
him  that  he  is  a  sinner  fundamentally,  such  is  not  his 
native  conviction  ;  the  transcendental  ego  in  him  cannot 
admit  any  external  standard  to  which  it  ought  to  have 
conformed.  The  Spaniard  is  metaphysically  humbler, 
knowing  himself  to  be  a  creature  of  accident  and  fate  ; 


yet  he  is  dramatically  more  impudent,  and  respects  himself 
more  than  he  respects  other  people.  He  laughs  at  kings  ; 
and  as  amongst  beggars  it  is  etiquette  to  whine,  and 
ostentatiously  to  call  oneself  blind,  old,  poor,  crippled, 
hungry,  and  a  brother  of  yours,  so  amongst  avowed  sinners 
it  may  become  a  point  of  pride  to  hold,  as  it  were,  the  record 
as  a  liar,  a  thief,  an  assassin,  or  a  harlot.  These  roles  are 
disgraceful  when  one  is  reduced  to  them  by  force  of  circum 
stances  or  for  some  mean  ulterior  motive,  but  they  recover 
their  human  dignity  when  one  wears  them  as  a  chosen 
mask  in  the  comedy  of  life.  The  pose,  at  that  angle, 
redeems  the  folly,  and  the  fagade  the  building.  Nor 
is  this  a  lapse  into  sheer  immorality  ;  there  is  many  a 
primitive  or  animal  level  of  morality  beneath  the  conven 
tional  code  ;  and  often  crime  and  barbarism  are  as  proud 
of  themselves  as  virtue,  and  no  less  punctilious.  If  there 
is  effrontery  in  such  a  rebellion,  there  may  be  also  sincerity, 
courage,  relief,  profound  truth  to  one's  own  nature.  Hence 
the  eloquence  of  romanticism.  Passion  and  wilfulnessi 
(which  romanticists  think  are  above  criticism)  cannot  be 
expected  to  understand  that,  if  they  merged  and  subsided 
into  a  harmony,  the  life  distilled  out  of  their  several  deaths 
would  be  infinitely  more  living  and  varied  than  any  of 
them,  and  would  be  beautiful  and  perfect  to  boot ;  whereas 
the  romantic  chaos  which  they  prolong  by  their  obstinacy 
is  the  most  hideous  of  hells.  But  avowed  sinners  and 
proud  romanticists  insist  on  preserving  and  on  loving  hell, 
because  they  insist  on  loving  and  preserving  themselves. 

It  was  not,  then,  moral  variety  that  was  lacking  in 
Spain,  always  a  romantic  country,  but  only  interest  in 
moral  variety.  This  lack  of  interest  was  itself  an  expres 
sion  of  romantic  independence,  intensity,  and  pride.  The 
gentleman  with  his  hand  always  on  the  hilt  of  his  sword, 
lest  some  whiff  from  anywhere  should  wound  his  vanity, 
or  the  monk  perpetually  murmuring  memento  mori,  closed 
his  mind  to  every  alien  vista.  Of  course  he  knew  that  the 
world  was  full  of  motley  characters  :  that  was  one  of  his 
reasons  for  holding  it  at  arm's  length.  What  were  those 
miscellaneous  follies  to  him  but  an  offence  or  a  danger  ? 
Why  should  he  entertain  his  leisure  in  depicting  or  idealizing 
them  ?  If  some  psychological  zoologist  cared  to  discant 


on  the  infinity  of  phenomena,  natural  or  moral,  well  and 
good  ;  but  how  should  such  things  charm  a  man  of  honour, 
a  Christian,  or  a  poet  ?  They  might  indeed  be  referred  to 
on  occasion,  as  fabulists  make  the  animals  speak,  with  a 
humorous  and  satirical  intention,  as  a  sort  of  warning  and 
confirmation  to  us  in  our  chosen  path  ;  but  an  appealing 
poet,  for  such  tightly  integrated  minds,  must  illustrate 
and  enforce  their  personal  feelings.  Moreover,  although 
in  words  and  under  the  spell  of  eloquence  the  Spaniard 
may  often  seem  credulous  and  enthusiastic,  he  is  dis 
illusioned  and  cynical  at  heart ;  he  does  not  credit  the 
existence  of  motives  or  feelings  better  than  those  he  has 
observed,  or  thinks  he  has  observed.  His  preachers 
recommend  religion  chiefly  by  composing  invectives  against 
the  world,  and  his  political  writers  express  sympathy  with 
one  foreign  country  only  out  of  hatred  for  another,  or 
perhaps  for  their  own.  The  sphere  of  distrust  and  in 
difference  begins  for  him  very  near  home ;  he  has  little 
speculative  sympathy  with  life  at  large  ;  he  is  cruel  to 
animals  ;  he  shrugs  his  shoulders  at  crime  in  high  places  ; 
he  feels  little  responsibility  to  the  public,  and  has  small 
faith  in  time  and  in  work.  This  does  not  mean  in  the 
least  that  his  character  is  weak  or  his  morality  lax  within 
its  natural  range  ;  his  affections  are  firm,  his  sense  of 
obligation  deep,  his  delicacy  of  feeling  often  excessive  ; 
he  is  devoted  to  his  family,  and  will  put  himself  to  any 
inconvenience  to  do  a  favour  to  a  friend  at  the  public 
expense.  There  are  definite  things  to  which  his  sentiments 
and  habits  have  pledged  him :  beyond  that  horizon 
nothing  speaks  to  his  heart. 

Such  a  people  will  not  go  to  the  play  to  be  vaguely 
entertained,  as  if  they  were  previously  bored.  They 
are  not  habitually  bored  ;  they  are  full  to  the  brim  of  their 
characteristic  passions  and  ideas.  They  require  that  the 
theatre  should  set  forth  these  passions  and  ideas  as 
brilliantly  and  convincingly  as  possible,  in  order  to  be 
confirmed  in  them,  and  to  understand  and  develop  them 
more  clearly.  Variety  of  plot  and  landscape  they  will 
relish,  because  nothing  is  easier  for  them  than  to  imagine 
themselves  born  in  the  purple,  or  captive,  or  in  love,  or  in 
a  difficult  dilemma  of  honour  ;  and  they  will  be  deeply 


moved  to  see  some  constant  spirit,  like  their  own,  buffeted 
by  fortune,  but  even  in  the  last  extremity  never  shaken. 
The  whole  force  of  their  dramatic  art  will  lie  in  leading 
them  to  dream  of  themselves  in  a  different,  perhaps  more 
glorious,  position,  in  which  their  latent  passions  might 
be  more  splendidly  expressed.  These  passions  are  intense 
and  exceptionally  definite  ;  and  this  is  the  reason,  I  think, 
for  the  monotony  of  Spanish  music,  philosophy,  and 
romantic  drama.  All  eloquence,  all  issues,  all  sentiments, 
if  they  are  not  to  seem  vapid  and  trivial,  must  be  such  as 
each  man  can  make  his  own,  with  a  sense  of  enhanced 
vitality  and  moral  glory.  The  lady,  if  he  is  to  warm  to 
her  praises,  must  not  be  less  divine  than  the  one  he  loves, 
or  might  have  loved  ;  the  hero  must  not  fall  short  of  what, 
under  such  circumstances,  he  himself  would  have  wished 
to  be.  The  language,  too,  must  always  be  worthy  of  the 
theme  :  it  cannot  be  too  rapturous  and  eloquent.  Unless 
his  soul  can  be  fired  by  the  poet's  words,  and  can  sing 
them,  as  it  were,  in  chorus,  he  will  not  care  to  listen  to 
them.  But  he  will  not  tire  of  the  same  cadences  or  the 
same  images — stars,  foam,  feathers,  flowers — if  these 
symbols,  better  than  any  others,  transport  him  into 
(the  ethereal  atmosphere  which  it  is  his  pleasure  to 

The  Spanish  nation  boils  the  same  peas  for  its  dinner 
*the  whole  year  round  ;  it  has  only  one  religion,  if  it  has 
any  ;  the  pious  part  of  it  recites  the  same  prayers  fifty 
or  one  hundred  and  fifty  times  daily,  almost  in  one  breath  ; 
the  gay  and  sentimental  part  never  ceases  to  sing  the  same 
jotas  and  malaguenas.  Such  constancy  is  admirable.  If 
a  dish  is  cheap,  nutritious,  and  savoury  on  Monday,  it 
must  be  so  on  Tuesday,  too  ;  it  was  a  ridiculous  falsehood, 
though  countenanced  by  some  philosophers,  which  pre 
tended  that  always  to  feel  (or  to  eat)  the  same  thing  was 
equivalent  to  never  feeling  (or  eating)  anything.  Nor 
does  experience  of  a  genuine  good  really  have  any  tendency 
to  turn  it  into  an  evil,  or  into  an  indifferent  thing ;  at 
most,  custom  may  lead  people  to  take  it  for  granted,  and 
the  thoughtless  may  forget  its  value,  until,  perhaps,  they 
lose  it.  Of  course,  men  and  nations  may  slowly  change 
their  nature,  and  consequently  their  rational  preferences ; 


but  at  any  assigned  time  a  man  must  have  some  moral 
complexion,  or  if  he  has  none,  not  much  need  be  said 
about  him. 

But  there  is  another  point  to  be  considered.  Need 
human  nature's  daily  food  be  exclusively  the  Spanish  pea  ? 
Might  it  not  just  as  well  be  rice,  or  polenta,  or  even  beef 
and  bacon  ?  Much  as  I  admire  my  countrymen's  stomachs 
for  making  a  clear  choice  and  for  sticking  to  it,  I  rather 
pity  them  for  the  choice  they  have  made.  That  hard 
yellow  pea  is  decidedly  heavy,  flatulent,  and  indigestible. 
I  am  sure  Pythagoras  would  not  have  approved  of  it; 
possibly  it  is  the  very  bean  he  abhorred.  Against  the  jota 
and  the  malaguena  I  can  say  nothing  ;  I  find  in  them  I 
know  not  what  infinite,  never-failing  thrill  and  inimitable 
power,  the  power  which  perfection  of  any  kind  always  has  ; 
yet  what  are  they  in  comparison  to  all  the  possibilities 
of  human  music  ?  Enjoyment,  which  some  people 
call  criticism,  is  something  aesthetic,  spontaneous,  and 
irresponsible  ;  the  aesthetic  perfection  of  anything  is 
incommensurable  with  that  of  anything  else.  But  there 
is  a  responsible  sort  of  criticism  which  is  political  and 
moral,  and  which  turns  on  the  human  advantage  of 
possessing  or  loving  this  or  that  sort  of  perfection.  To 
cultivate  some  sorts  may  be  useless  or  even  hostile  to  the 
possible  perfection  of  human  life.  Spanish  religion,  again, 
is  certainly  most  human  and  most  superhuman  ;  but  its 
mystic  virtue  to  the  devotee  cannot  alter  the  fact  that, 
on  a  broad  view,  it  appears  to  be  a  romantic  tour  de  force, 
a  desperate  illusion,  fostered  by  premature  despair  and  by 
a  total  misunderstanding  of  nature  and  history.  Finally, 
those  lyrical  ladies  and  entranced  gentlemen  of  the  Spanish 
drama  are  like  filigree  flowers  upon  golden  stems  ;  they 
belong  to  a  fantastic  ballet,  to  an  exquisite  dream,  rather 
than  to  sane  human  society.  The  trouble  is  not  that  their 
types  are  few  and  constant,  but  that  these  types  are 
eccentric,  attenuated,  and  forced.  They  would  not  be 
monotonous  if  they  were  adequate  to  human  nature.  How 
vast,  how  kindly,  how  enveloping  does  the  world  of  Shake 
speare  seem  in  comparison  !  We  seem  to  be  afloat  again  on 
the  tide  of  time,  in  a  young,  green  world ;  we  are  ready 
to  tempt  new  fortunes,  in  the  hope  of  reaching  better  things 


than  we  know.  And  this  is  the  right  spirit ;  because 
although  the  best,  if  it  had  been  attained,  would  be  all- 
sufficient,  the  best  is  not  yet. 

<^fatw"  .*4**r|^  *i 


THERE  is  an  important  official  of  the  inner  man  who  in  the 
latest  psychology  is  called  the  Censor  ;  his  function  is  to 
forbid  the  utterance,  in  the  council  chamber  within  us,  of 
unparliamentary  sentiments,  and  to  suppress  all  reports 
not  in  the  interest  of  our  moral  dignity.  By  relegating 
half  our  experience  to  oblivion  and  locking  up  our  unseemly 
passions  in  solitary  dungeons,  the  Censor  composes  a 
conventional  personage  that  we  may  decently  present  to 
the  world.  It  is  he,  whilst  we  are  sane  and  virtuous,  that 
regulates  our  actions.  It  had  occurred  to  me  sometimes 
that  the  Censor  was  only  another  name  for  our  old  friend 
Reason  ;  but  there  is  a  great  difference.  This  is  no  censor 
of  the  noble  Roman  sort,  like  Cato  Major  ;  he  makes  no 
attempt  to  purify  the  republic  from  within  ;  he  is  not 
concerned  with  moral  health,  honest  harmony,  and  the 
thorough  extirpation  of  hopeless  rebels.  He  is  concerned 
only  with  appearances  and  diplomatic  relations ;  his  old 
name  was  not  Reason  but  Vanity  or  Self-love.  He  is 
merely  the  head  of  the  government  propaganda,  charged 
with  preventing  inconvenient  intelligence  of  our  psycho 
logical  home  politics  from  reaching  foreign  powers  or 
weakening  the  moral  of  our  fighting  force.  He  is  the 
father  of  shams.  He  invents  those  masterly  methods  of 
putting  our  best  foot  forward,  and  sustaining  the  illusion 
that  we  are  always  actuated  by  becoming  and  avowable 
motives.  He  it  is  that  dictates  the  polite  movements  by 
which  we  show  that  we  prefer  the  comfort  of  others  to  our 
own.  He  causes  us  to  put  on  mourning  for  those  who  have 
left  us  legacies.  He  persuades  us  that  we  believe  in  the 
religion  of  our  ancestors,  in  the  science  of  the  day,  in  the 
national  cause,  and  in  the  party  cry.  He  leads  us  to  admire 
the  latest  art,  or  the  most  ancient ;  he  enables  us  to  be 


pleased  with  every  fashion  in  turn,  or  perhaps  to  sigh  at 
its  ugliness,  if  we  are  conscious  of  being  the  best-dressed 
persons  in  the  room.  He  induces  us  to  follow  the  doings 
of  the  royal  family  with  affectionate  awe,  to  love  our 
relations,  to  prefer  Bach  to  Offenbach,  and  always  to  have 
had  a  good  time  when  we  leave  a  friend's  house.  The 
Censor  sends  our  children  to  the  best  schools,  to  prove 
what  sacrifices  we  are  willing  to  make  for  their  good,  and 
to  relieve  us  of  further  responsibility  in  regard  to  them. 
He  directs  that  considerations  of  wealth  shall  control  our 
careers,  our  friendships,  and  our  manners  ;  and  this  is 
perhaps  the  greatest  sham  of  all  the  shams  he  has  set  up  : 
that  money  is  an  expression  of  happiness  and  a  means  to 
it.  What  opens  the  way  to  happiness,  if  our  character  does 
not  render  happiness  impossible,  is  freedom,  and  some 
security  against  want  is  usually  necessary  for  that ;  but 
wealth,  and  the  necessity  of  being  fashionable  if  one  is 
rich,  take  away  freedom.  A  genuine  love  for  the  pleasant 
surroundings  and  the  facilities  which  riches  afford  is  often 
keener  in  the  outsider,  who  peeps  in  at  the  gate,  than  in 
the  master  or  his  children  who  perhaps,  if  the  Censor  would 
let  them,  would  prefer  their  low  acquaintance  and  their 
days  afield.  But  the  Censor-ridden  inner  man  cannot  break 
his  harness.  He  is  groomed  and  reined  in  like  a  pony  at 
the  circus  :  at  the  crack  of  the  whip  the  neck  must  be 
bent,  the  tail  switched,  the  trained  feet  must  retrace  the 
circle  in  the  sawdust,  or  tap  the  velvet  barrier.  So  we 
prance  to  our  funeral,  the  last  sham  of  all,  after  the  Censor 
has  made  our  wills  for  us ;  whereupon  somebody  else's 
Censor  gives  us  the  finishing  touches  by  praising  our 
character,  and  nailing  down  the  coffin. 

The  untutored  passions  which  the  Censor  keeps  down 
are  themselves  remarkable  dissemblers.  That  old  pro 
pensity  to  allegory,  which  is  now  condemned  in  literature, 
seems  to  rule  unchecked  in  dreams.  Invention  in  dreams, 
as  in  mythology,  is  far-fetched,  yet  spontaneous.  What 
it  sets  immediately  before  us  is  a  third  or  a  fourth  trans 
formation  of  the  fundamental  fact.  It  hides  the  fact, 
without  misrepresenting  it ;  the  orchestration  of  the  theme, 
the  alien  images  in  which  allegory  dresses  it  up,  are 
suggested  by  some  subtle  affinity,  some  instinctive  choice, 


which  is  perfectly  automatic  and  innocent ;  the  Psyche 
could  find  no  simpler  way  of  bringing  her  agitations  to 
consciousness.  Just  as  we  cannot  see  a  material  object 
more  clearly  than  by  seeing  exactly  how  it  looks  (though 
that  may  not  be  at  all  how  it  is),  so  we  cannot  express  a 
feeling  more  sincerely  than  by  rehearsing  all  the  images, 
all  the  metaphors,  which  it  suggests  to  us.  Passion  when 
aroused  to  speech  is  rich  in  rhetorical  figures.  When  we 
assert  inaccurately  that  a  man  is  a  cur  we  depart  from 
observation  only  to  register  sentiment ;  we  express  truly 
the  niche  he  fills  in  our  thoughts.  Dramatic  poetry  is  an 
excursus  in  this  direction ;  it  reports  the  echoes  which  events 
produce  in  a  voluminous  inner  sensibility ;  it  throws  back 
our  perception  of  what  is  going  on  into  the  latent  dream 
which  this  perception  has  for  its  background  :  for  a  percep 
tion,  apart  from  its  object,  is  only  one  feature  in  a  dream, 
momentarily  more  salient  than  the  rest.  These  natural 
harlequins,  the  passions,  are  perfectly  sincere  in  their 
falsehoods  and  indirections  :  their  fancy  is  their  only 
means  of  expressing  the  facts.  To  be  more  literal  would 
require  training,  and  a  painful  effort ;  it  would  require 
the  art  of  reading  and  discounting  dreams,  whilst  these 
simple  poets  have  only  the  gift  of  dreaming.  When  Juliei^ 
dreams  (it  is  a  desperate  poetic  little  dream  created  by 
her  passion)  that  she  will  cut  up  Romeo  into  bits  and  make  \ 
stars  of  him,  the  image  is  extravagant ;  yet  if  the  funda 
mental  theme  is,  as  I  suppose,  that  every  atom  of  Romeo 
is  precious,  this  mad  but  natural  passion  for  the  bits,  even, 
of  what  she  loves,  is  expressed  truly.  But  this  sort  of 
sincere  fiction,  though  it  may  put  the  Censor  to  sleep  if 
he  does  not  quite  understand  what  it  signifies,  is  the  very 
opposite  of  his  own  shams  ;  it  is  exuberance  and  these 
are  suppression.  If  the  Censor  could  have  got  at  Juliet 
in  time,  she  would  have  expressed  herself  quite  differently. 
Wiping  her  prospective  tears  he  would  have  said,  "  What 
is  Romeo's  body  to  me  ?  Our  spirits  will  be  reunited  in 
heaven  !  "  This  would  have  been  a  sham  ;  because  we 
should  now  not  be  led  to  understand  that  Juliet  loved  the 
eyes  and  the  hands  and  the  lips  of  Romeo — which  was  the 
fact  to  be  expressed — but  on  the  contrary  her  idolatrous 
infatuation  would  have  been  hushed  up,  and  something 


else,  an  empty  convention  contradicting  her  true  feeling, 
would  have  been  substituted  for  it. 

The  Censor  may  not  be  useless  to  the  poet  in  the  end, 
because  the  need  of  shamming  develops  sensitiveness  in 
some  directions,  as  in  that,  for  instance,  of  self-conscious 
ness.  The  vigour  of  art  in  England  may  depend  on  the 
possibility  of  using  the  fineness  of  perception  which 
reticence  enhances  in  order  to  invent  new  metaphors  and 
allegories  by  which  to  express  the  heart.  Could  a  vigorous 
English  art,  for  instance,  ever  give  expression  to  the 
erotic  passion  which,  according  to  this  latest  psychology, 
plays  such  a  great  part  in  the  Psyche  ?  The  comic  vein 
of  English  writers  commonly  stops  short  at  the  improper. 
This  is  doubtless  a  wise  modesty  on  their  part,  because 
every  artist  is  a  moralist,  though  he  need  not  preach  ;  like 
Orpheus  he  tames  the  simple  soul  to  his  persuasive 
measures  ;  he  insinuates  his  preferences  and  his  principles, 
he  teaches  us  what  to  love  :  and  to  discover  what  we 
truly  love  is  the  whole  of  ethics.  Now  if  any  passion  were 
sinful  and  really  shameful  in  itself,  it  ought  not  to  enter 
at  all  into  human  life,  either  through  the  door  of  art  or 
through  any  other  door.  Conceivably  a  perfect  expression 
might  still  be  given  to  it  technically,  although  even  this 
is  improbable  if  the  artist  had  a  bad  conscience  and  a 
leering  eye ;  but  this  expression,  good  only  from  an 
abstracted  point  of  view,  would  be  on  the  whole  an  evil 
experience  and  an  evil  possession.  If  the  early  Christians 
and  the  Puritans  and  a  whole  cloud  of  mystics  and  ascetics 
everywhere  have  been  right  in  thinking  the  flesh  essentially 
sinful,  the  Censor  must  not  be  allowed  to  flinch  ;  on  the 
contrary,  he  must  considerably  extend  his  operations.  If 
you  renounce  the  flesh  you  must  renounce  the  world  ; 
things  called  indecent  or  obscene  are  inextricably  woven 
into  the  texture  of  human  existence  ;  there  can  be  no 
completely  honest  comedy  without  them.  Life  itself  would 
have  to  be  condemned  as  sinful ;  we  should  deny  that 
anything  harmonious,  meiry,  or  sweet  could  be  made  of 
it,  either  in  the  world  or  on  the  stage.  If  we  made  any 
concession  to  art  at  all,  on  the  same  grounds  as  to 
matrimony,  it  would  be  only  in  favour  of  tragedy,  which 
should  show  us  that  all  we  think  most  amiable  is  an 


illusion,  ending  in  torments  and  in  nothingness.  Wedlock 
itself  would  be  sanctioned  only  grudgingly,  as  a  concession 
to  human  frailty,  lest  a  worse  thing  be  ;  and  we  should 
marry,  if  at  all  very  sadly,  with  fear  and  trembling  and 
strictly  for  the  sake  of  children.  Marriage  would  then  not 
be  the  happy-go-lucky,  tender,  faithful,  humorous,  trying 
fatality  which  nature  has  made  of  it,  and  which  comedy 

Perhaps  the  emancipated  plebeians  of  the  future  will 
expect  their  comic  poets  to  play  upon  sensuality  as  upon 
something  altogether  innocent  and  amiable  :  comic,  too, 
because  all  reality  is  comic,  and  especially  a  phase  of  it 
where  illusion,  jollity,  conceit,  mishap,  and  chagrin  follow 
one  another  in  such  quick  alternation.  If  this  subject 
could  be  passed  by  the  Censor,  and  treated  judiciously, 
it  would  enrich  the  arts  and  at  the  same  time  disinfect 
the  mind  in  one  of  its  most  troubled  and  sullen  moods, 
by  giving  it  a  merry  expression.  In  the  Arabian  Nights 
I  find  something  of  this  kind  ;  but  erotic  art  in  Europe, 
even  in  antiquity,  seems  to  have  been  almost  always  , 
constrained  and  vicious.  A  man  who  is  moralized  politic-  ; 
ally,  as  Europeans  are,  rather  than  religiously  or  poetically 
like  Orientals,  cannot  treat  natural  things  naturally.  He 
respects  the  uttered  feelings  of  others  more  than  his  own 
feelings  unuttered,  and  suppresses  every  manifestation 
of  himself  which  a  spectator  might  frown  upon,  even  if 
behind  the  Censor's  back  everybody  would  rejoice  in  it. 
So  long  as  this  social  complication  lasts, public  art  and  the 
inner  life  have  to  flow  separately,  the  one  remains  conven 
tional  the  other  clouded  and  incoherent.  If  poets  under 
these  circumstances  tried  to  tell  the  whole  truth,  they  would 
not  only  offend  the  public  but  do  a  grave  injustice  to  their 
theme,  and  fail  to  make  it  explicit,  for  want  of  discipline 
and  grace  of  expression.  It  is  as  well  that  the  Censor, 
by  imposing  silence,  keeps  them  from  attempting  the 



AMONGST  tragic  masks  may  be  counted  all  systems  of 
philosophy  and  religion.  So  long  as  they  are  still  plastic 
in  the  mind  of  their  creator,  they  seem  to  him  to  wear 
the  very  lineaments  of  nature.  He  cannot  distinguish 
the  comic  cast  of  his  own  thought ;  yet  inevitably  it  shows 
the  hue  and  features  of  his  race  ;  it  has  its  curious  idiom 
and  constitutional  grammar,  its  quite  personal  rhetoric, 
its  ridiculous  ignorances  and  incapacities,  and  when  his 
work  is  finished  and  its  expression  set,  and  other  people 
behold  it,  it  becomes  under  his  name  one  of  the  stock 
masks  or  dramatis  personae  of  the  moral  world.  In  it 
every  wrinkle  of  his  soul  is  eternalized,  its  old  dead  passion 
persisted  in,  its  open  mouth,  always  with  the  same  rictus, 
bawling  one  deaf  thought  for  ever.  Even  to  himself,  if 
he  could  have  seen  his  mind  at  a  distance,  it  would  have 
appeared  limited  and  foreign,  as  to  an  old  man  the  verses 
of  his  youth,  or  like  one's  own  figure  seen  unexpectedly 
in  a  mirror  and  mistaken  at  first  for  another  person.  His 
own  system,  as  much  as  those  of  others,  would  have 
seemed  to  him  a  mask  for  the  truth,  partial,  over-emphatic, 
exaggerating  one  feature  and  distorting  another,  and 
above  all  severed  from  the  context  of  nature,  as  a  picture 
in  a  frame,  where  much  may  be  shown  with  a  wonderfully 
distilled  beauty,  yet  without  its  substance,  and  without  its 
changeful  setting  in  the  moving  world.  Yet  this  fate  is 
in  part  a  favour.  A  system,  like  a  tell-tale  glass,  may  reveal 
by  a  trick  of  reflection  many  a  fact  going  on  behind  one's 
back.  By  it  the  eye  of  the  mind  travels  where  experience 
cannot  penetrate  ;  it  turns  into  a  spectacle  what  was 
never  open  to  sight,  and  it  disentangles  things  seen  from 
the  personal  accidents  of  vision.  The  mask  is  greater  than 
the  man.  In  isolating  what  was  important  and  pertinent 
in  his  thoughts,  it  rescues  his  spirit  from  the  contamination 
of  all  alien  dyes,  and  bequeaths  it  to  posterity  such  as  it 
would  have  wished  to  be. 




THE  voyage  of  Peter's  Bark  in  search  of  another  world  has 
been  less  fortunate  than  that  of  Columbus.  There  have 
been  mutinies  on  board  ;  the  other  world  is  not  yet  found. 
Soon  after  this  good  ship,  the  Saint  Christopher,  was 
launched  from  her  Phoenician  home-port,  she  had  a  strange 
experience  very  like  that  which  legend  attributes  to  her 
namesake,  the  sainted  ferryman.  Her  freight  at  the 
beginning  seemed  to  be  of  the  lightest — only  living  Hopes 
and  daily  Miracles  ;  and  the  crossing  was  to  be  very 
brief,  the  other  shore  being  plainly  visible  at  a  stone's 
throw.  But  that  promised  land  turned  out  to  be  a  mirage, 
lying  across  the  mouth  of  the  port,  which  really  opened 
out  into  a  vast  ocean.  Meantime  the  cargo  too  was 
strangely  transformed  ;  for  whilst  the  Hopes  and  Miracles 
were  still  reputed  to  be  on  board,  they  were  hidden  from 
sight  and  smothered  in  a  litter  of  Possessions.  These 
included  a  great  load  of  Books,  a  heavy  fund  of  Traditions, 
and  a  multitude  of  unruly  passengers,  with  their  clamorous 
wives  and  children,  and  all  sorts  of  provender.  So  over 
weighted,  the  Saint  Christopher  sank  down  until  the  waves 
almost  covered  her  deck  ;  but  she  was  staunch,  like  the 
wading  saint  when  his  light  burden  grew  heavier  and 
heavier,  and  she  laboured  on. 

Not  only  was  this  ship  named  after  a  saint — which 
in  so  old  a  ship  is  no  wonder — but  incredible  as  it  may 
seem,  her  captain  was  a  saint  too — Saint  Simon  or  (since 
these  vague  roving  people  often  have  an  alias)  Saint  Peter. 
He  had  been  a  fisherman  by  profession,  and  had  only 
become  a  saint  late  in  life  ;  a  fact  which  explained  his 
good  seamanship  and  his  bad  language.  Besides,  he  did 
not  pretend  to  be  a  saint  except  in  his  official  capacity, 
as  captain,  and  in  matters  of  science  and  navigation: 
in  his  private  life  he  was  frankly  not  impeccable,  and 
deprecated  any  strict  scrutiny  of  it  as  not  to  the  point. 
Not  only  might  there  have  been  some  blemishes  in  his 
early  career,  but  even  when  in  command  he  might  have 
his  faults.  People  enjoy  doing  what  they  can  do  well 



from  long  habit ;  and  he  was  perhaps  too  fond  of  fishing, 
of  cursing,  and  of  commanding. 

These  foibles  once  brought  upon  him  a  serious  mutiny. 
A  large  part  of  the  crew,  imitating  his  expressive  speech, 
cried,  "  Damn  the  captain ! "  and  took  to  the  boats, 
saying  the  ship  was  rotten  and  water-logged.  They 
carried  away  with  them  most  of  the  Hopes,  whilst  scrupu 
lously  leaving  the  Miracles  alone.  In  their  boats  and  rafts 
they  pulled  ahead  in  all  directions,  covering  the  sea  with 
specks  for  a  long  distance  ;  and  the  captain,  after  running 
down  and  sinking  a  few  of  them  in  his  towering  rage,  got 
used  to  their  existence,  made  things  shipshape  again  on 
board,  and  fell  to  observing  them,  not  without  some 
chucklings  of  humour,  rowing  and  splashing  about, 
quarrelling  and  never  getting  anywhere,  but  often  merely 
drifting  and  quietly  fishing,  much  in  his  own  old 

The  worst  mutiny  in  the  Saint  Christopher,  however, 
was  of  quite  another  kind.  The  remaining  crew  had  no 
objection  to  the  captain — they  were  human  themselves — 
and  no  desire  to  paddle  their  own  canoes.  But  they  got 
thoroughly  weary  of  sailing  day  after  day  into  the  same 
sunset,  decided  that  there  was  no  El  Dorado,  and  insisted 
clamorously  on  putting  the  ship  about.  But  in  what 
direction  ?  Some  were  for  going  home  ;  they  said  all 
talk  of  another  world  was  nonsense,  that  those  Hopes 
and  Miracles  were  worthless,  and  that  the  only  thing  to 
do  was  to  return  to  the  old  country  and  live  there  in  the 
old  way,  making  the  best  of  it.  But  the  majority  said 
that  such  an  acknowledgment  of  defeat  and  error  would 
be  ignominious  ;  and  that  life  at  home,  never  really  happy, 
would  now  be  doubly  intolerable.  They  would  never 
have  set  out  on  so  problematical  an  expedition,  had  they 
found  life  possible  in  their  native  seats.  But  it  had  been 
horrible.  They  remembered  with  a  shudder  the  cruelties 
and  vanities  of  their  ancestral  heathenism.  They  were 
adventurers  and  mariners  by  nature.  They  might  be  now 
bewildered  for  a  moment  and  discouraged  in  their  explora 
tions,  but  the  impulse  to  hope  for  the  better  and  to  try  the 
unknown  was  ineradicable  in  their  breast. 

In  some  of  them,  indeed,  this  brave  impulse  was  so 


vigorous,  that  they  now  had  a  sudden  intuition  of  the 
romantic  principle  of  life,  and  harangued  their  companions 
as  follows  : 

"  What  need,  O  shipmates,  to  sail  for  any  port  ?  The 
sailor  is  not  a  land  animal.  How  we  chafed  and  stifled 
when  we  lived  on  terra  firma,  pent  in  those  horrible  stone 
dungeons  called  houses  and  churches,  and  compelled  to 
till  those  inert  and  filthy  clods,  year  in  and  year  out — a 
most  stupefying  existence  !  Let  us  sail  for  the  sake  of 
sailing.  It  was  not  in  putting  forth  into  this  infinite  sea 
that  we  were  ill-advised,  but  only  in  imagining  that  we 
could  reach  an  opposite  shore,  and  that  the  sea  was  not 
infinite  but  hemmed  about  by  dead  land.  That  was  a 
gross  illusion.  In  reality  there  is  no  terra  firma  at  all, 
but  only  ships  and  rafts  more  or  less  extensive,  covered 
over  with  earth  and  trees,  riding  on  the  water.  Fancy 
deceived  us,  when  we  supposed  that  our  Farth  was 
anchored  in  some  deeper  earth.  It  floats  and  drifts  upon 
a  bottomless  flood,  and  will  dissolve  into  it.  Do  not  dream 
of  any  backward  voyage,  or  of  reaching  home.  You  will 
never  find  that  old  home  again  ;  it  exists  no  longer.  But 
this  good  ship  of  ours,  with  its  wind-blown  sails,  can  never 
sink  and  can  never  stop.  If  the  banners  and  crosses,  which 
we  still  fly  in  deference  to  custom,  have  lost  their  meaning 
for  us,  other  symbols  will  take  their  place.  We  must  not 
confuse  our  infinite  task  with  the  illusions  that  may  first 
have  prompted  us  to  undertake  it.  A  brave  and  an 
endless  life  awaits  us,  battling  with  the  storms  of  winter  ; 
in  the  summer  days,  leaping  over  the  waves  with  the 
dolphins  and  the  porpoises ;  in  the  watches  of  the  night 
hailing  the  ever -new  constellations  which,  as  we  sail 
onward,  will  rise  to  greet  us,  and  pass  over  our  heads.  For 
ocean  is  a  river  that  flows  unendingly,  and  the  stars  and 
clouds  are  exhalations  attendant  upon  it ;  they  rise  and 
soar  in  great  circles  perpetually  before  its  course,  like  loosed 
doves  before  the  bounding  shell  of  Galatea." 

These  words  were  not  at  all  relished  by  the  majority 
of  those  who  listened  to  them.  They  were  stay-at-homes 
by  temperament,  who  had  embarked  only  in  the  hope  of 
gain,  or  of  finding  peace  and  plenty  in  some  softer  climate. 
They  were  alarmed  and  disgusted  at  what  they  had  just 


heard,  and  not  being  quite  sure  that  it  was  false,  they 
denied  it  with  some  irritation. 

"  What  folly,"  they  cried,  "  what  nonsense  you  are  talking. 
Of  course  it  is  the  land  that  is  infinite,  since  it  is  much  better 
than  the  sea ;  and  the  sea  is  no  river,  or  its  water  would 
be  fresh,  and  you  know  how  brackish  and  bitter  it  is  : 
indeed,  but  for  the  rain  we  have  collected  in  pans  and 
hogsheads,  we  should  already  have  died  of  thirst.  This 
sea  is  nothing  but  a  stagnant  lake  in  the  midst  of  the 
green  earth,  one  of  the  myriad  salt  ponds  studded  all 
over  it ;  and  as  for  this  leaky  little  ship,  which  we  were 
induced  to  embark  in  only  by  fraud,  it  is  not  really  sea 
worthy.  The  planks  and  cordage  are  already  rotting, 
and  how  shall  we  replace  them,  unless  we  speedily  sight 
land — and  God  grant  it  may  be  a  civilized  country  1  And 
look  there  !  Is  not  that  land  on  the  horizon !  Through  the 
clearing  mists  I  can  discern  a  lighthouse,  quite  distinctly ; 
and  beyond  lies  a  low  shore,  overhung  with  smoke.  Some 
thing  tells  me  this  is  the  New  Atlantis  described  by  Bacon. 
A  prosperous  and  populous  city,  full  of  docks  and  factories, 
where  we  shall  find  everything  needful — warehouses,  shops, 
inns,  theatres,  baths,  even  churches  and  chapels  of  every 
sect  and  denomination.  What  joy  !  " 

This  sight  was  so  welcome  to  those  heartsick  passengers, 
that  they  could  not  wait  for  the  ship  to  make  fast,  though 
they  steered  her  straight  for  the  coast,  but  jumped  over 
board  and  eagerly  swam  ashore.  Their  example  was 
contagious.  The  other  party  could  not  bear  to  be  left 
behind  without  experiencing  the  new  life,  whatever  it 
might  bring.  They  reflected  that  as  the  land  was  really  a 
part  of  the  sea,  it  was  not  bad  seamanship  sometimes  to 
run  aground,  that  in  leaving  the  ship  they  would,  in  a 
higher  sense,  be  continuing  their  voyage,  and  that  they 
would  not  be  true  to  the  supreme  principle  of  their 
philosophy,  which  was  absolute  free-will,  if  they  did  not 
often  change  their  principles  in  minor  matters.  The  chief 
point  was  to  experience  everything.  They  did  not  regret 
the  past,  as  did  their  narrow-minded  positivistic  friends, 
simply  because  it  had  involved  hardships  and  errors. 
Hardships  and  errors  were  blessings,  if  you  could  only 
outgrow  them  ;  and  they,  in  their  splendid  vitality,  knew 


how  to  outgrow  everything.  Sacred  history,  classic  fable, 
chivalry,  and  the  cure  of  one's  soul  had,  in  that  former 
age,  proved  absorbing  themes  for  the  fancy,  and  had 
exquisitely  modulated  the  emotions  ;  but  the  fountain 
of  those  emotions  had  always  been  their  own  breast,  and 
since  after  such  dramatic  adventures  their  breast  remained 
deeply  unsatisfied,  it  was  time  to  look  again  narrowly  into 
its  depths  to  discover  some  newer  and  truer  way  of  ex 
pressing  it.  Why  should  not  the  development  of  material 
arts  be  the  next  phase  in  their  career  ?  They  would  not 
be  less  free  amid  the  gusts  and  the  billows  of  politics  than 
they  had  been  in  their  marine  adventure  ;  commerce  would 
offer  them  glorious  opportunities  to  exercise  their  will 
power  and  their  invention  ;  infinite  vistas,  here  too,  were 
open  before  them  :  cities  always  more  populous,  possessions 
always  more  varied,  instruments  always  more  wonderful, 
and  labour  always  more  intense. 

The  romantic  party  accordingly  joined  the  lovers  of 
material  progress  in  their  new  city,  called  Mechanapolis  : 
but  the  old  opposition  in  their  temperaments  remained 
undiminished.  The  lovers  of  adventure  wanted  machines 
in  order  to  make  war,  and  the  lovers  of  thrift  wanted 
peace  in  order  to  make  other  machines. 

Meantime  Peter  the  captain,  with  much  grumbling  and 
shaking  of  his  grey  beard,  had  got  the  old  Saint  Christopher 
afloat  again,  and  accompanied  still  by  a  faithful  boatswain 
and  cook,  and  some  nondescript  recruits  that  he  had  got 
together,  set  out  again  to  sea,  in  search  of  that  other  land 
beyond  the  ocean  which  is  called  heaven.  And  every 
evening  with  a  trembling  finger  he  pointed  to  it  in  the 
setting  sun,  not  seeing  that  heaven  was  above  his  head. 


WHEN  ancient  peoples  defended  what  they  called  their 
liberty,  the  word  stood  for  a  plain  and  urgent  interest  of 
theirs  :  that  their  cities  should  not  be  destroyed,  their 
territory  pillaged,  and  they  themselves  sold  into  slavery. 


For  the  Greeks  in  particular  liberty  meant  even  more 
than  this.  Perhaps  the  deepest  assumption  of  classic  philo 
sophy  is  that  nature  and  the  gods  on  the  one  hand  and 
man  on  the  other,  both  have  a  fixed  character  ;  that  there 
is  consequently  a  necessary  piety,  a  true  philosophy,  a 
standard  happiness,  a  normal  art.  The  Greeks  believed, 
not  without  reason,  that  they  had  grasped  these  permanent 
principles  better  than  other  peoples.  They  had  largely 
dispelled  superstition,  experimented  in  government,  and 
turned  life  into  a  rational  art.  Therefore  when  they 
defended  their  liberty  what  they  defended  was  not  merely 
freedom  to  live.  It  was  freedom  to  live  well,  to  live  as 
other  nations  did  not,  in  the  public  experimental  study  of 
the  world  and  of  human  nature.  This  liberty  to  discover 
and  pursue  a  natural  happiness,  this  liberty  to  grow  wise 
and  to  live  in  friendship  with  the  gods  and  with  one  another, 
was  the  liberty  vindicated  at  Thermopylae  by  martyrdom 
and  at  Salamis  by  victory. 

As  Greek  cities  stood  for  liberty  in  the  world,  so 
philosophers  stood  for  liberty  in  the  Greek  cities.  In 
both  cases  it  was  the  same  kind  of  liberty,  not  freedom  to 
wander  at  hazard  or  to  let  things  slip,  but  on  the  contrary 
freedom  to  legislate  more  precisely,  at  least  for  oneself, 
and  to  discover  and  codify  the  means  to  true  happiness. 
Many  of  these  pioneers  in  wisdom  were  audacious  radicals 
and  recoiled  from  no  paradox.  Some  condemned  what 
was  most  Greek  :  mythology,  athletics,  even  multiplicity 
and  physical  motion.  In  the  heart  of  those  thriving, 
loquacious,  festive  little  ant-hills,  they  preached  impassi 
bility  and  abstraction,  the  unanswerable  scepticism  of 
silence.  Others  practised  a  musical  and  priestly  refinement 
of  life,  filled  with  metaphysical  mysteries,  and  formed 
secret  societies,  not  without  a  tendency  to  political 
domination.  The  cynics  railed  at  the  conventions,  making 
themselves  as  comfortable  as  possible  in  the  rdle  of 
beggars  and  mocking  parasites.  The  conservatives  them 
selves  were  radical,  so  intelligent  were  they,  and  Plato 
wrote  the  charter  of  the  most  extreme  militarism  and 
communism,  for  the  sake  of  preserving  the  free  state.  It 
was  the  swan-song  of  liberty,  a  prescription  to  a  diseased 
old  man  to  become  young  again  and  try  a  second  life 


of  superhuman   virtue.     The   old  man   preferred  simply 
to  die. 

Many  laughed  then,  as  we  may  be  tempted  to  do,  at 
all  those  absolute  physicians  of  the  soul,  each  with  his 
panacea.  Yet  beneath  their  quarrels  the  wranglers  had  a 
common  faith.  They  all  believed  there  was  a  single  solid 
natural  wisdom  to  be  found,  that  reason  could  find  it,  and 
that  mankind,  sobered  by  reason,  could  put  it  in  practice. 
Mankind  has  continued  to  run  wild  and  like  barbarians  to 
place  freedom  in  their  very  wildness,  till  we  can  hardly  < 
conceive  the  classic  assumption  of  Greek  philosophers  and 
cities,  that  true  liberty  is  bound  up  with  an  institution,  a 
corporate  scientific  discipline,  necessary  to  set  free  the 
perfect  man,  or  the  god,  within  us. 

Upon  the  dissolution  of  paganism  the  Christian  church 
adopted  the  classic  conception  of  liberty.  Of  course,  the 
field  in  which  the  higher  politics  had  to  operate  was  now 
conceived  differently,  and  there  was  a  new  experience  of 
the  sort  of  happiness  appropriate  and  possible  to  man  ; 
but  the  assumption  remained  unchallenged  that  Providence, 
as  well  as  the  human  soul,  had  a  fixed  discoverable  scope, 
and  that  the  business  of  education,  law,  and  religion  was 
to  bring  them  to  operate  in  harmony.  The  aim  of  life, 
salvation,  was  involved  in  the  nature  of  the  soul  itself, 
and  the  means  of  salvation  had  been  ascertained  by  a 
positive  science  which  the  church  was  possessed  of,  partly 
revealed  and  partly  experimental.  Salvation  was  simply 
what,  on  a  broad  view,  we  should  see  to  be  health,  and 
religion  was  nothing  but  a  sort  of  universal  hygiene. 

The  church,  therefore,  little  as  it  tolerated  heretical 
liberty,  the  liberty  of  moral  and  intellectual  dispersion,  felt 
that  it  had  come  into  the  world  to  set  men  free,  and 
constantly  demanded  liberty  for  itself,  that  it  might  fulfil 
this  mission.  It  was  divinely  commissioned  to  teach,  guide, 
and  console  all  nations  and  all  ages  by  the  self-same 
means,  and  to  promote  at  all  costs  what  it  conceived  to 
be  human  perfection.  There  should  be  saints  and  as  many 
saints  as  possible.  The  church  never  admitted,  any  more 
than  did  any  sect  of  ancient  philosophers,  that  its  teaching 
might  represent  only  an  eccentric  view  of  the  world,  or 
that  its  guidance  and  consolations  might  be  suitable  only 


at  one  stage  of  human  development.  To  waver  in  the 
pursuit  of  the  orthodox  ideal  could  only  betray  frivolity 
and  want  of  self-knowledge.  The  truth  of  things  and  the 
happiness  of  each  man  could  not  lie  elsewhere  than  where 
the  church,  summing  up  all  human  experience  and  all 
divine  revelation,  had  placed  it  once  for  all  and  for  every 
body.  The  liberty  of  the  church  to  fulfil  its  mission  was 
accordingly  hostile  to  any  liberty  of  dispersion,  to  any 
radical  consecutive  independence,  in  the  life  of  individuals 
or  of  nations. 

When  it  came  to  full  fruition  this  orthodox  freedom  was 
far  from  gay ;  it  was  called  sanctity.  The  freedom  of 
pagan  philosophers  too  had  turned  out  to  be  rather  a  stiff 
and  severe  pose  ;  but  in  the  Christian  dispensation  this 
austerity  of  true  happiness  was  less  to  be  wondered  at, 
since  life  on  earth  was  reputed  to  be  abnormal  from  the 
beginning,  and  infected  with  hereditary  disease.  The  fall 
beauty  and  joy  of  restored  liberty  could  hardly  become 
evident  in  this  life.  Nevertheless  a  certain  beauty  and 
joy  did  radiate  visibly  from  the  saints  ;  and  while  we 
may  well  think  their  renunciations  and  penances  misguided 
or  excessive,  it  is  certain  that,  like  the  Spartans  and  the 
philosophers,  they  got  something  for  their  pains.  Their 
bodies  and  souls  were  transfigured,  as  none  now  found 
upon  earth.  If  we  admire  without  imitating  them  we  shall 
perhaps  have  done  their  philosophy  exact  justice.  Classic 
liberty  was  a  sort  of  forced  and  artificial  liberty,  a  poor 
perfection  reserved  for  an  ascetic  aristocracy  in  whom 
heroism  and  refinement  were  touched  with  perversity  and 
slowly  starved  themselves  to  death. 

Since  those  days  we  have  discovered  how  much  larger 
the  universe  is,  and  we  have  lost  our  way  in  it.  Any  day 
it  may  come  over  us  again  that  our  modern  liberty  to  drift 
in  the  dark  is  the  most  terrible  negation  of  freedom. 
Nothing  happens  to  us  as  we  would.  We  want  peace  and 
make  war.  We  need  science  and  obey  the  will  to  believe, 
we  love  art  and  flounder  among  whimsicalities,  we  believe 
in  general  comfort  and  equality  and  we  strain  every  nerve 
to  become  millionaires.  After  all,  antiquity  must  have 
been  right  in  thinking  that  reasonable  self -direction  must 
rest  on  having  a  determinate  character  and  knowing  what 


it  is,  and  that  only  the  truth  about  God  and  happiness,  if 
we  somehow  found  it,  could  make  us  free.  But  the  truth 
is  not  to  be  found  by  guessing  at  it,  as  religious  prophets 
and  men  of  genius  have  done,  and  then  damning  every  one 
who  does  not  agree.  Human  nature,  for  all  its  substantial 
fixity,  is  a  living  thing  with  many  varieties  and  variations. 
All  diversity  of  opinion  is  therefore  not  founded  on 
ignorance  ;  it  may  express  a  legitimate  change  of  habit  or 
interest.  The  classic  and  Christian  synthesis  from  which 
we  have  broken  loose  was  certainly  premature,  even  if  the 
only  issue  of  our  liberal  experiments  should  be  to  lead  us 
back  to  some  such  equilibrium.  Let  us  hope  at  least  that 
the  new  morality,  when  it  comes,  may  be  more  broadly 
based  than  the  old  on  knowledge  of  the  world,  not  so 
absolute,  not  so  meticulous,  and  not  chanted  so  much  in 
the  monotone  of  an  abstracted  sage. 


THERE  is  a  fine  theory  of  Hegel's  that  the  universe  exists 
in  order  to  realize  freedom.  In  Oriental  despotisms,  he 
tells  us,  only  one  man  was  free.  In  ancient  republican  cities 
a  minority,  the  aristocracy  of  citizens,  obtained  freedom. 
Now  at  last  freedom  has  extended  to  all ;  not,  however,  as 
we  might  fondly  suppose,  in  free  and  casual  America,  but 
under  the  perfect  organization  of  the  Prussian  monarchy. 
For  freedom  in  the  mouth  of  German  philosophers  has  a 
very  special  meaning.  It  does  not  refer  to  any  possibility 
of  choice  nor  to  any  private  initiative.  It  means  rather 
that  sense  of  freedom  which  we  acquire  when  we  do  gladly 
and  well  what  we  should  have  to  do  anyhow,  as  when 
in  passing  from  a  close  room  into  the  open  air  we  say  we 
breathe  freely  at  last.  German  freedom  is  like  the  freedom 
of  the  angels  in  heaven  who  see  the  face  of  God  and  cannot 
sin.  It  lies  in  such  a  deep  love  and  understanding  of  what 
is  actually  established  that  you  would  not  have  it  other 
wise  ;  you  appropriate  and  bless  it  all  and  feel  it  to  be 
the  providential  expression  of  your  own  spirit.  You  are 


enlarged  by  sympathy  with  your  work,  your  country,  and 
the  universe,  until  you  are  no  longer  conscious  of  the  least 
distinction  between  the  Creator,  the  state,  and  yourself. 
Your  compulsory  service  then  becomes  perfect  freedom. 

For  liberal  freedom,  for  individualism,  these  philosophers 
have  a  great  contempt.  They  say  a  man  is  nothing  but 
the  sum  of  his  relations  to  other  things,  and  if  he  should 
throw  off  one  after  another  these  constitutive  bonds,  he 
would  find  his  private  residuum  of  a  self  to  be  a  mathe 
matical  point  and  a  naked  cipher,  incapable  of  willing  or  of 
choosing  anything.  And  they  further  say  that  a  dutiful 
soul  is  right  in  feeling  that  the  world  it  accepts  and  co 
operates  with  is  its  own  work ;  for,  according  to  their 
metaphysics,  the  world  is  only  an  idea  which  each  man 
makes  after  his  own  image,  and  even  as  you  are,  so  is  the 
world  you  imagine  you  live  in.  Only  a  foolish  recalcitrant 
person,  who  does  not  recognize  the  handiwork  of  his  own 
spirit  about  him,  rebels  against  it,  and  thereby  cancels 
his  natural  freedom  ;  for  everywhere  he  finds  contradic 
tions  and  closed  doors  and  irksome  necessities,  being  divided 
against  himself  and  constantly  bidding  his  left  hand  undo 
what  his  right  hand  is  doing.  So  that,  paradoxical  as  it 
may  seem,  it  is  only  when  you  conform  that  you  are  free, 
while  if  you  rebel  and  secede  you  become  a  slave.  Your 
spiritual  servitude  in  such  a  case  would  only  be  manifesting 
itself  in  a  phenomenal  form  if  the  government  should  put 
you  in  prison. 

The  national  expression  of  this  kind  of  freedom  is  what 
the  Germans  call  Kultur,  a  word  not  well  understood  in 
other  countries.  Every  nation  has  certain  characteristic 
institutions,  certain  representative  writers  and  statesmen, 
past  and  present,  certain  forms  of  art  and  industry,  a 
certain  type  of  policy  and  moral  inspiration.  These  are 
its  Kultur,  its  national  tradition  and  equipment.  When 
by  education  the  individual  is  brought  to  understand  all 
these  things,  to  share  their  spirit  and  life,  and  to  be  able 
to  carry  them  forward  faithfully,  then  he  has  absorbed 
the  Kultur  in  his  own  person.  Kultur  is  transmitted  by 
systematic  education.  It  is  not,  like  culture,  a  matter  of 
miscellaneous  private  attainments  and  refined  tastes,  but, 
rather,  participation  in  a  national  purpose  and  in  the 


means  of  executing  it.  The  adept  in  this  Kultur  can  live 
freely  the  life  of  his  country,  possessing  its  secret  inspiration, 
valuing  what  it  pursues  and  finding  his  happiness  in  those 
successes  which  he  can  help  it  to  attain.  Kultur  is  a  lay 
religion,  which  includes  ecclesiastical  religion  and  assigns 
to  it  its  due  place. 

German  Kultur  resembles  the  polity  of  ancient  cities 
and  of  the  Christian  church  in  that  it  constitutes  a  definite, 
authoritative,  earnest  discipline,  a  training  which  is 
practical  and  is  thought  to  be  urgent  and  momentous. 
It  is  a  system  to  be  propagated  and  to  be  imposed.  It  is 
all-inclusive  and  demands  entire  devotion  from  everybody. 
At  the  same  time  it  has  this  great  advantage  over  the 
classic  systems,  that  it  admits  variations.  At  Sparta, 
in  Plato's  Republic,  and  in  the  Catholic  church  the  aims 
and  constitution  of  society  were  expected  to  remain  always 
the  same.  The  German  ideal,  on  the  contrary,  not  only 
admits  evolution,  but  insists  upon  it.  Like  music,  it  is 
essentially  a  form  of  movement.  According  to  the 
philosophers,  however,  the  form  of  this  movement  is  fixed 
by  the  absolute  genius  of  the  composer,  and  prescribes 
the  way  in  which  the  changes  shall  go  on.  Evolution  thus 
introduces  life  into  this  ideal,  but  does  not  admit  am 
biguities.  In  this  sense  the  German  law  of  progression 
is  as  inexorable  as  the  classic  model  of  form. 

The  more  reasonable  theorists  of  German  Kultur 
introduce  another  qualification,  which,  if  admitted,  is  of 
the  greatest  importance,  namely,  that  German  Kultur  is 
not  to  be  extended  to  other  nations.  Some  make  a  special 
point  of  contrasting  the  universal  claims  of  the  Roman 
and  Napoleonic  empires  and  of  the  Catholic  church  with 
the  aspirations  of  German  genius,  which,  they  say,  is  infinite 
inwardly,  being  capable  of  endless  growth  and  modification 
by  men  of  Teutonic  blood,  yet  is  limited  externally  or  in 
space,  in  that  it  is  not  communicable  to  other  races.  Non- 
Teutons  should  never  be  summoned,  therefore,  to  acquire 
the  German  spirit,  which  they  would  only  pollute.  Their 
proper  r61e  is  rather  to  stand  by,  no  doubt  overawed  and 
filled  with  admiration,  but  left  without  hope  or  fear  of 
being  assimilated.  Yet  as  the  church  could  admit  that 
there  might  be  unconscious  and  virtual  Christians  among 


the  heathen,  who  might  by  exception  be  saved,  so  there 
may  be  sporadic  manifestations  of  Teutonic  genius  in 
unforeseen  quarters.  Shakespeare,  Dante,  and  Christ 
were  virtual  and  unconscious  Germans. 

There  is,  of  course,  a  less  indulgent  Germanism,  which 
has  on  its  side  the  authority  of  Fichte  and  Hegel,  the 
enthusiasm  of  the  pan-Germans  and  that  lust  for  boundless 
ascendancy  which  enterprise  and  war  naturally  foster  in 
anybody  who  has  carried  them  on  passionately  and  success 
fully.  According  to  this  stricter  view,  the  whole  world 
is  to  be  subjugated  and  purified  by  the  German  nation, 
which  alone  inherits  the  undefiled  language  and  religion 
of  Eden,  and  must  assign  to  the  remaining  Creole  races, 
descended  from  savages  and  ultimately  perhaps  from 
monkeys  or  devils,  such  tasks  as  they  are  capable  of. 
The  masters,  being  by  nature  generous  and  kind,  will 
\  allow  their  slaves,  after  their  work  is  done,  to  bask  in 
\  despicable  happiness,  since  happiness  is  all  that  slaves  are 
capable  of  living  for  ;  but  they  will  be  proudly  commanded 
by  a  race  of  hard,  righteous,  unhappy,  heroic  German 
experts,  with  blue  eyes  fixed  on  the  eternal  ideal. 

The  admission  that  German  Kultur  is  merely  national, 
which  might  seem  to  promise  peace  and  goodwill,  may 
be  turned  in  this  way  into  a  sinister  claim  to  absolute 
dominion.  The  ancients  and  the  church  had  supposed 
that  all  men,  though  endowed  with  talent  and  goodness 
in  the  most  various  degrees,  had  qualitatively  the  same 
nature.  The  same  passions,  the  same  arts,  and  the  same 
salvation  were  proper  to  them  all.  The  servant,  in  further 
ing  the  aims  of  his  betters,  served  what  his  own  soul 
potentially  loved  and  was  capable  of  appropriating  ;  there 
could  be  religion  and  love  in  his  subordination.  Recipro 
cally  the  master  could  feel  respect  and  affection  for  his 
servants,  who  were  his  wards  and  his  god-children.  The 
best  things  in  classic  life — religion,  poetry,  comradeship, 
moral  sagacity — were  shared  by  the  humblest  classes  and 
expressed  their  genius.  The  temple,  the  church,  the  agora, 
the  theatre,  Socrates,  and  the  saints  were  of  the  people. 

German  Kultur,  on  the  contrary,  boasts  that  it  is  not 
the  expression  of  diffused  human  nature,  but  the  product 
of  a  special  and  concentrated  free  will.  It  is  therefore 


incommunicable,  unrepresentative.  It  is  not  felt  by 
any  one  else  to  realize  his  ideal,  but  seems  foreign  to 
him,  forced  and  unamiable.  Every  nation  loves  its 
idiosyncrasies  and,  until  it  reflects,  thinks  its  own  balance 
of  faculties,  like  its  language,  more  natural  than  other 
people's.  But  the  prophets  of  Germanism  have  turned 
this  blameless  love  of  home  and  its  sanctities  into  a 
deliberate  dogma  that  everything  German  has  a  divine 
superiority.  This  dogma  they  have  foisted  on  a  flattered 
and  trustful  nation,  with  the  command  to  foist  it  on  the 
rest  of  the  world.  The  fatuity  of  this  is  nothing  new,  many 
nations  and  religions  having  shared  it  in  their  day,  and 
we  could  afford  to  laugh  at  it,  if  by  direct  and  indirect 
coercion  it  did  not  threaten  to  trespass  upon  our  liberties. 
What  is  universally  acceptable  in  German  Kultur  is 
what  it  contains  that  is  not  German  but  human,  what  with 
praiseworthy  docility  it  has  borrowed  from  the  ancients, 
from  Christianity,  from  the  less  intentional  culture  of  its 
modern  neighbours.  The  Teutonic  accent  which  these 
elements  have  acquired  is  often  very  engaging  ;  it  adds  to 
them  a  Gothic  charm  for  the  lack  of  which  mankind  would 
be  the  poorer.  But  the  German  manner,  in  art,  in  philo 
sophy,  in  government,  is  no  better — in  its  broad  appeal  to 
human  nature  we  may  fairly  say  it  is  worse — than  the 
classic  manner  which  it  hopes  to  supersede.  It  is  avowedly 
a  product  of  will,  arbitrary,  national,  strained ;  it  is  not 
superior  to  what  other  nations  possess  or  may  create  but 
only  different,  not  advanced  but  eccentric.  To  study  it 
and  use  it  for  a  stimulus  may  be  profitable  in  times  and 
places  of  spiritual  famine  or  political  chaos,  but  to  impose  it 
as  normal,  not  to  say  as  supreme,  would  be  a  plain  invasion 
of  human  liberty. 


MODERN  reformers,  religious  and  political,  have  usually 
retained  the  classic  theory  of  orthodoxy,  namely,  that 
there  is  one  right  or  true  system — democracy  and  free 
thought,  for  instance — which  it  is  the  reformer's  duty  to 


establish  in  the  place  of  prevalent  abuses.  Certainly 
Luther  and  Calvin  and  the  doctrinaires  of  the  French 
revolution  only  meant  to  substitute  one  orthodoxy  for 
another,  and  what  they  set  forth  they  regarded  as  valid 
for  all  men  and  forever.  Nevertheless  they  had  a  greater 
success  in  discrediting  the  received  system  than  in  establish 
ing  their  own,  and  the  general  effect  of  their  reforms  was 
to  introduce  the  modern  conception  of  liberty,  the  liberty 
of  liberalism. 

This  consists  in  limiting  the  prescriptions  of  the  law 
to  a  few  points,  for  the  most  part  negative,  leaving  it  to 
the  initiative  and  conscience  of  individuals  to  order  their 
life  and  conversation  as  they  like,  provided  only  they  do 
not  interfere  with  the  same  freedom  in  others.  In  practice 
liberal  countries  have  never  reached  this  ideal  of  peaceful 
anarchy,  but  have  continued  to  enforce  state  education, 
monogamy,  the  vested  rights  of  property,  and  sometimes 
military  service.  But  within  whatever  limits,  liberty  is 
understood  to  lie  in  the  individual  being  left  alone,  so  that 
he  may  express  his  personal  impulses  as  he  pleases  in  word 
and  action. 

A  philosopher  can  readily  see  that  this  liberal  ideal 
implies  a  certain  view  about  the  relations  of  man  in  the 
universe.  It  implies  that  the  ultimate  environment,  divine 
or  natural,  is  either  chaotic  in  itself  or  undiscoverable  by 
human  science,  and  that  human  nature,  too,  is  either 
radically  various  or  only  determinable  in  a  few  essentials, 
round  which  individual  variations  play  ad  libitum.  For 
this  reason  no  normal  religion,  science,  art,  or  way  of 
happiness  can  be  prescribed.  These  remain  always  open, 
even  in  their  foundations,  for  each  man  to  arrange  for 
himself.  The  more  things  are  essentially  unsettled  and 
optional,  the  more  liberty  of  this  sort  there  may  safely 
be  in  the  world  and  the  deeper  it  may  run. 

Man,  however,  is  a  gregarious  animal,  and  much  more 
so  in  his  mind  than  in  his  body.  He  may  like  to  go  alone 
for  a  walk,  but  hates  to  stand  alone  in  his  opinions.  And 
he  is  so  imitative  that  what  he  thinks  he  most  wishes  to 
do  is  whatever  he  sees  other  people  doing.  Hence  if 
compulsory  organization  disappears  a  thousand  free  and 
private  organizations  at  once  take  its  place.  Virginal 


liberty  is  good  only  to  be  surrendered  at  the  right  time  to 
a  right  influence.  A  state  in  which  government  is  limited 
to  police  duty  must  allow  churches,  universities  (with 
millionaires  to  found  them),  public  sports,  private  charities, 
masonic  or  monastic  orders,  and  every  other  sort  of  party 
institution,  to  flourish  within  it  unhindered  ;  otherwise 
that  state  would  hardly  be  civilized  and  nothing  of  import 
ance  would  ever  be  done  in  it.  Yet  the  prevalence  of  such 
free  associations  will  jeopardize  the  perfect  liberty  which 
individuals  are  supposed  to  enjoy.  Private  organizations 
are  meddlesome  ;  if  they  cannot  impose  themselves  by 
force,  they  insinuate  themselves  by  propaganda,  and  no 
paternal  government  ever  exerted  so  pervasive  and 
indiscreet  an  influence  as  they  know  how  to  acquire. 
Fashions  in  speech  or  clothes  are  harder  to  evade  than 
any  laws,  and  religion,  when  it  is  chosen  and  sectarian, 
eats  more  into  the  soul  than  when  it  is  established  and 
conventional.  In  a  society  honeycombed  by  private 
societies  a  man  finds  his  life  supervised,  his  opportunities 
pre-empted,  his  conscience  intimidated,  and  his  pocket 
drained.  Every  one  he  meets  informs  him  of  a  new  duty 
and  presents  him  with  a  new  subscription  list.  At  every 
turn  he  must  choose  between  being  incorporated  or  being 
ostracized.  Indeed,  the  worst  and  most  radical  failure  in 
his  fabled  liberty  of  choice  is  that  he  never  had  a  choice 
about  his  environment  or  about  his  faculties,  and  has  to 
take  his  luck  as  to  his  body,  his  mind,  his  position,  his 
country,  and  his  family.  Even  where  he  may  cast  a  vote 
his  vote  is  far  from  decisive.  In  electing  a  government, 
as  in  selecting  a  wife,  only  two  or  three  candidates  are 
commonly  available,  and  the  freeman's  modest  privilege 
is  to  declare  hopefully  which  one  he  wants  and  then  to 
put  up  with  the  one  he  gets. 

If  liberalism  had  been  a  primitive  system,  with  no 
positive  institutions  behind  it,  it  would  have  left  human 
genius  in  the  most  depressed  and  forlorn  condition.  The 
organized  part  of  life  would  have  been  a  choice  among 
little  servitudes,  and  the  free  personal  part  would  have 
been  a  blank.  Fortunately,  liberal  ages  have  been 
secondary  ages,  inheriting  the  monuments,  the  feelings, 
and  the  social  hierarchy  of  previous  times,  when  men  had 


lived  in  compulsory  unison,  having  only  one  unquestioned 
religion,  one  style  of  art,  one  political  order,  one  common 
spring  of  laughter  and  tears.  Liberalism  has  come  to 
remove  the  strain  and  the  trammels  of  these  traditions 
without  as  yet  uprooting  the  traditions  themselves.  Most 
people  retain  their  preliberal  heritage  and  hardly  remember 
that  they  are  legally  free  to  abandon  it  and  to  sample 
any  and  every  other  form  of  life.  Liberalism  does  not 
go  very  deep ;  it  is  an  adventitious  principle,  a  mere 
loosening  of  an  older  structure.  For  that  reason  it  brings 
to  all  who  felt  cramped  and  ill-suited  such  comfort  and 
relief.  It  offers  them  an  escape  from  all  sorts  of  accidental 
tyrannies.  It  opens  to  them  that  sweet,  scholarly,  tenderly 
moral,  critically  superior  attitude  of  mind  which  Matthew 
Arnold  called  culture. 

Primitive,  dragooned,  unanimous  ages  cannot  possess 
culture.  What  they  possess  is  what  the  Germans  call  a 
Kultur,  some  type  or  other  of  manners,  laws,  implements, 
arts,  religion.  When  these  national  possessions  are  per 
used  and  relished  by  some  individual  who  does  not  take 
them  for  granted  and  who  understands  and  judges  them 
as  if  from  outside,  his  acquaintance  with  them  becomes 
an  element  in  his  culture  ;  and  if  he  is  at  home  in  many 
such  forms  of  life  and  thought,  his  culture  is  the  more 
perfect.  It  should  ideally  be  culled  from  everywhere. 
Culture  is  a  triumph  of  the  individual  over  society.  It 
is  his  way  of  profiting  intellectually  by  a  world  he  has 
not  helped  to  make. 

Culture  requires  liberalism  for  its  foundation,  and 
liberalism  requires  culture  for  its  crown.  It  is  culture 
that  integrates  in  imagination  the  activities  which  liberalism 
so  dangerously  disperses  in  practice.  Out  of  the  public 
disarray  of  beliefs  and  efforts  it  gathers  its  private  collec 
tion  of  curiosities,  much  as  amateurs  stock  their  museums 
with  fragments  of  ancient  works.  It  possesses  a  wealth  of 
vicarious  experience  and  historical  insight  which  comforts 
it  for  having  nothing  of  its  own  to  contribute  to  history. 
The  man  of  culture  abounds  in  discriminating  senti 
ments  ;  he  lives  under  the  distant  influence  of  exalted 
minds  ;  his  familiar  thoughts  at  breakfast  are  intimate 
appreciations  of  poetry  and  art,  and  if  his  culture  is 


really  mellow,  he  sometimes  smiles  a  little  at  his  own 

Culture  came  into  the  modern  world  with  the  renaissance, 
when  personal  humours  and  remote  inspiration  broke  in 
upon  the  consecrated  mediaeval  mind.  Piety  and  learn 
ing  had  their  intrinsic  charms,  but,  after  all,  they  had 
been  cultivated  for  the  sake  of  ulterior  duties  and  benefits, 
and  in  order  to  appropriate  and  hand  down  the  revealed 
wisdom  which  opened  the  way  to  heaven.  Culture,  on 
the  contrary,  had  no  ulterior  purpose,  no  forced  unity. 
It  was  an  aroma  inhaled  by  those  who  walked  in  the 
evening  in  the  garden  of  life.  Far  from  being  a  means  to 
religion,  it  threw  religion  also  into  the  context  of  human 
experience,  and  touched  its  mysteries  and  quarrels  with 
judgement  and  elegance.  It  liberated  the  studious  mind 
from  obligatory  or  national  discipline,  and  as  far  as  possible 
from  all  bonds  of  time,  place,  utility,  and  co-operation, 
kindling  sympathies  by  preference  with  what  was  most 
exotic,  and  compensating  the  mind  for  the  ignominious 
necessity  of  having  to  be,  in  practical  matters,  local  and 
partisan.  Culture  was  courteous,  open,  uncons:ious  of 
self  ;  it  was  the  joy  of  living  every  life  but  one's  own. 
And  its  moral  side — for  everything  has  its  moral  side — lay  in 
the  just  judgements  it  fostered,  the  clear  sense  it  awakened 
of  the  different  qualities  and  values  of  things.  The  scale 
of  values  established  by  the  man  of  culture  might  sometimes 
be  fanciful  or  frivolous,  but  he  was  always  most  scrupulous, 
according  to  his  lights,  in  distinguishing  the  better  from 
the  worse.  This  conscientiousness,  after  all,  is  the  only 
form  of  morality  that  a  liberal  society  can  insist  upon. 

The  days  of  liberalism  are  numbered.  First  the  horrors 
of  competition  discredited  it,  and  now  the  trial  of  war, 
which  it  foolishly  thought  it  could  elude.  The  vogue  of 
culture,  too,  has  declined.  We  see  that  the  man  whose 
success  is  merely  personal — the  actor,  the  sophist,  the 
millionaire,  the  aesthete — is  incurably  vulgar.  The  right- 
ness  of  liberalism  is  exactly  proportional  to  the  diversity 
of  human  nature,  to  its  vague  hold  on  its  ideals.  Where 
this  vagueness  and  play  of  variation  stop,  and  they  stop 
not  far  below  the  surface,  the  sphere  of  public  organization 
should  begin.  It  is  in  the  subsoil  of  uniformity,  of  tradition, 



of  dire  necessity  that  human  welfare  is  rooted,  together 
with  wisdom  and  unaffected  art,  and  the  flowers  of  culture 
that  do  not  draw  their  sap  from  that  soil  are  only  paper 


To  the  mind  of  the  ancients,  who  knew  something  of  such 
matters,  liberty  and  prosperity  seemed  hardly  compatible, 
yet  modern  liberalism  wants  them  together.  Liberals 
believe  that  free  inquiry,  free  invention,  free  association, 
and  free  trade  are  sure  to  produce  prosperity.  I  have  no 
doubt  they  are  right  in  this  ;  the  nineteenth  century, 
that  golden  age  of  liberalism,  certainly  saw  a  great  increase 
in  wealth,  in  science,  and  in  comforts.  What  the  ancients 
had  before  them  was  a  different  side  of  the  question ; 
they  had  no  experience  of  liberalism  ;  they  expected  to  be 
state-ridden  in  their  religion,  their  customs,  and  their 
military  service  ;  even  in  their  personal  and  family  morals 
they  did  not  begrudge  the  strictest  discipline  ;  their  states 
needed  to  be  intensely  unified,  being  small  and  in  constant 
danger  of  total  destruction.  Under  these  circumstances 
it  seemed  clear  to  them  that  prosperity,  however  it  might 
have  been  produced,  was  dangerous  to  liberty.  Prosperity 
brought  power ;  and  when  a  people  exercises  control  over 
other  peoples  its  government  becomes  ponderous  even  at 
home  ;  its  elaborate  machinery  cannot  be  stopped,  and 
can  hardly  be  mended  ;  the  imperial  people  becomes  the 
slave  of  its  commitments.  Moreover,  prosperity  requires 
inequalities  of  function  and  creates  inequalities  of  fortune  ; 
and  both  too  much  work  and  too  much  wealth  kill  liberty 
in  the  individual.  They  involve  subjection  to  things ; 
and  this  is  contrary  to  what  the  ancients,  who  had  the 
pride  of  noble  animals,  called  freedom.  Prosperity,  both 
for  individuals  and  for  states,  means  possessions  ;  and 
possessions  mean  burdens  and  harness  and  slavery ;  and 
slavery  for  the  mind,  too,  because  it  is  not  only  the  rich 
man's  time  that  is  pre-empted,  but  his  affections,  his 
judgement,  and  the  range  of  his  thoughts. 


I  often  wonder,  looking  at  my  rich  friends,  how  far  their 
possessions  are  facilities  and  how  far  they  are  impediments. 
The  telephone,  for  instance,  is  a  facility  if  you  wish  to  be 
in  many  places  at  once  and  to  attend  to  anything  that 
may  turn  up  ;  it  is  an  impediment  if  you  are  happy  where 
you  are  and  in  what  you  are  doing.  Public  motor-vehicles, 
public  libraries,  and  public  attendants  (such  as  waiters  in 
hotels,  when  they  wait)  are  a  convenience,  which  even 
the  impecunious  may  enjoy ;  but  private  automobiles, 
private  collections  of  books  or  pictures,  and  private  servants 
are,  to  my  thinking,  an  encumbrance  :  but  then  I  am  an  old 
fogy  and  almost  an  ancient  philosopher,  and  I  don't  count. 
I  prize  civilization,  being  bred  in  towns  and  liking  to  hear 
and  to  see  what  new  things  people  are  up  to.  I  like  to 
walk  about  amidst  the  beautiful  things  that  adorn  the 
world ;  but  private  wealth  I  should  decline,  or  any  sort 
of  personal  possessions,  because  they  would  take  away  my 

Perhaps  what  liberalism  aspires  to  marry  with  liberty 
is  not  so  much  prosperity  as  progress.     Progress  means 
continued  change  for  the  better  ;    and  it  is  obvious  that 
liberty  will  conduce  to  progress  in  all  those  things,  such  as 
writing  poetry,  which  a  man  can  pursue  without  aid  or 
interference   from    others :     where   aid   is    requisite    and 
interference  probable,  as  in  politics,  liberty  conduces  to 
progress   only  in  so   far  as  people   are   unanimous,   and 
spontaneously  wish  to  move  in  the  same  direction.     Now 
what  is  the  direction  of  change  which  seems  progress  to 
liberals  ?     A  pure  liberal  might  reply,  The  direction  of 
liberty  itself :    the  ideal  is  that  every  man  should  move 
in  whatever  direction  he  likes,  with  the  aid  of  such  as 
agree  with  him,  and  without  interfering  with  those  who 
disagree.     Liberty  so  conceived  would  be  identical  with 
happiness,  with  spontaneous  life,  blamelessly  and  safely 
lived  ;    and  the  impulse  of  liberalism,  to  give  everybody 
what  he  wants,  in  so  far  as  that  is  possible,  would  be 
identical  with  simple  kindness.     Benevolence  was  one  of 
the  chief  motives  in  liberalism  in  the  beginning,  and  many 
a  liberal  is  still  full  of  kindness  in  his  private  capacity  ;  but 
politically,  as  a  liberal,  he  is  something  more  than  kind. 
The  direction  in  which  many,  or  even  most,  people  would 


like  to  move  fills  him  with  disgust  and  indignation ;  he 
does  not  at  all  wish  them  to  be  happy,  unless  they  can  be 
happy  on  his  own  diet ;  and  being  a  reformer  and  a 
philanthropist,  he  exerts  himself  to  turn  all  men  into  the 
sort  of  men  he  likes,  so  as  to  be  able  to  like  them.  It 
would  be  selfish,  he  thinks,  to  let  people  alone.  They 
must  be  helped,  and  not  merely  helped  to  what  they 
desire — that  might  really  be  very  bad  for  them — but  helped 
onwards,  upwards,  in  the  right  direction.  Progress  could 
not  be  rightly  placed  in  a  smaller  population,  a  simpler 
economy,  more  moral  diversity  between  nations,  and 
stricter  moral  discipline  in  each  of  them.  That  would  be 
progress  backwards,  and  if  it  made  people  happier,  it 
would  not  make  the  liberal  so.  Progress,  if  it  is  to  please 
him,  must  continue  in  the  direction  in  which  the  nine 
teenth  century  progressed,  towards  vast  numbers,  material 
complexity,  moral  uniformity,  and  economic  interdepend 
ence.  The  best  little  boy,  for  instance,  according  to  the 
liberal  ideal,  desires  to  be  washed,  to  go  to  school, 
to  do  Swedish  exercises,  and  to  learn  everything  out  of 
books.  But  perhaps  the  individual  little  boy  (and  accord 
ing  to  the  liberal  philosophy  his  individuality  is  sacred, 
and  the  only  judge  of  what  is  good  or  true  for  him  is  his 
own  consciousness)  desires  to  go  dirty,  to  make  mud-pies 
in  the  street,  and  to  learn  everything  by  experience  or  by 
report  from  older  boys.  When  the  philanthropist  runs 
up  to  the  rescue,  this  little  ingrate  snivels  at  him  the 
very  principle  of  liberal  liberty,  "  Let  me  alone."  To 
inform  such  an  urchin  that  he  does  not  know  what  is  good 
for  him,  that  he  is  a  slave  to  bad  habits  and  devilish 
instincts,  that  true  freedom  for  him  can  only  come  of 
correcting  himself,  until  he  has  learned  to  find  happiness 
in  virtue — plainly  that  would  be  to  abandon  liberalism, 
and  to  preach  the  classical  doctrine  that  the  good  is  not 
liberty  but  wisdom.  Liberalism  was  a  protest  against 
just  such  assumptions  of  authority.  It  emphatically 
refused  to  pursue  an  eventual  stoical  freedom,  absurdly 
so  called,  which  was  to  come  when  we  had  given  up  every 
thing  we  really  wanted — the  mock  freedom  of  service. 
In  the  presence  of  the  little  boy  liberal  philosophy  takes  a 
middle  course.  It  is  convinced — though  it  would  not  do 


to  tell  him  so  prematurely — that  he  must  be  allowed  to 
go  dirty  for  a  time,  until  sufficient  experience  of  filth  teaches 
him  how  much  more  comfortable  it  is  to  be  clean  ;  also 
that  he  will  go  to  school  of  his  own  accord  if  the  books 
have  pictures  enough  in  them,  and  if  the  teacher  begins 
by  showing  him  how  to  make  superior  mud-pies.  As  to 
morals  and  religion,  the  boy  and  his  companions  will 
evolve  the  appropriate  ones  in  time  out  of  their  own 
experience,  and  no  others  would  be  genuine. 

Liberal  philosophy,  at  this  point,  ceases  to  be  empirical 
and  British  in  order  to  become  German  and  transcendental. 
Moral  life,  it  now  believes,  is  not  the  pursuit  of  liberty 
and  happiness  of  all  sorts  by  all  sorts  of  different  creatures  ; 
it  is  the  development  of  a  single  spirit  in  all  life  through  a 
series  of  necessary  phases,  each  higher  than  the  preceding 
one.  No  man,  accordingly,  can  really  or  ultimately  desire 
anything  but  what  the  best  people  desire.  This  is  the 
principle  of  the  higher  snobbery ;  and  in  fact,  all  earnest 
liberals  are  higher  snobs.  If  you  refuse  to  move  in  the 
prescribed  direction,  you  are  not  simply  different,  you  are 
arrested  and  perverse.  The  savage  must  not  remain  a 
savage,  nor  the  nun  a  nun,  and  China  must  not  keep  its 
wall.  If  the  animals  remain  animals  it  is  somehow  through 
a  failure  of  the  will  in  them,  and  very  sad.  Classic  liberty, 
though  only  a  name  for  stubborn  independence,  and 
obedience  to  one's  own  nature,  was  too  free,  in  one  way, 
for  the  modern  liberal.  It  accepted  all  sorts  of  perfections, 
animal,  human,  and  divine,  as  final  after  their  kind,  each 
the  seat  of  a  sufficient  virtue  and  happiness.  It  was 
polytheistic.  Between  master  and  slave,  between  man 
and  woman,  it  admitted  no  moral  advance  or  develop 
ment  ;  they  were,  or  might  be,  equally  perfect.  Inequality 
was  honourable  ;  amongst  the  humblest  there  could  be 
dignity  and  sweetness ;  the  higher  snobbery  would  have 
been  absurd,  because  if  you  were  not  content  to  be  what 
you  were  now,  how  could  you  ever  be  content  with  any 
thing  ?  But  the  transcendental  principle  of  progress  is 
pantheistic.  It  requires  everything  to  be  ill  at  ease  in 
its  own  house ;  no  one  can  be  really  free  or  happy  but 
all  must  be  tossed,  like  herded  emigrants,  on  the  same 
compulsory  voyage,  to  the  same  unhomely  destination. 


The  world  came  from  a  nebula,  and  to  a  nebula  it  returns. 
In  the  interval,  happiness  is  not  to  be  found  in  being  a  fixed 
star,  as  bright  and  pure  as  possible,  even  if  only  for  a 
season  ;  happiness  is  to  flow  and  dissolve  in  sympathy 
with  one's  higher  destiny. 

The  notion  of  progress  is  thus  merged  with  that  of 
universal  evolution,  dropping  the  element  of  liberty  and 
even  of  improvement.  Nevertheless,  in  the  political 
expression  of  liberalism,  liberty  took  the  first  innings. 
Protestants  began  by  asserting  the  right  of  private  judge 
ment  in  interpreting  scripture ;  transcendentajists  ended 
by  asserting  the  divine  right  of  the  individual  to  impose 
his  own  spirit  on  everything  he  touched.  His  duty  to 
himself,  which  was  also  his  deepest  instinct,  was  to  suck 
in  from  the  widest  possible  field  all  that  was  congenial  to 
him,  and  to  reject,  down  to  his  very  centre,  whatever 
might  thwart  or  offend.  Sometimes  he  carried  his  con 
sistency  in  egotism  to  the  length  of  denying  that  anything 
he  could  not  digest  could  possibly  exist,  or  that  the  material 
world  and  foreign  nations  were  more  than  ideal  pawns 
in  the  game  he  played  with  himself  for  his  self -development. 
Even  when  not  initiated  into  these  transcendental  mysteries, 
he  was  filled  with  practical  self-trust,  the  desire  to  give 
himself  freedom,  and  the  belief  that  he  deserved  it.  There 
was  no  need  of  exploring  anything  he  was  not  tempted 
to  explore  ;  he  had  an  equal  right  to  his  opinion,  whatever 
the  limits  of  his  knowledge  ;  and  he  should  be  coerced  as 
little  as  possible  in  his  action.  In  specific  matters,  for  the 
sake  of  expediency,  he  might  be  willing  to  yield  to  the 
majority  ;  but  only  when  his  vote  had  been  counted,  and  as 
a  sort  of  insurance  against  being  disturbed  in  his  residual 

There  was  a  general  conviction  behind  all  these  maxims, 
that  tradition  corrupts  experience.  All  sensation — which 
is  the  test  of  matters  of  fact — is  somebody's  sensation  ;  all 
reasoning  is  somebody's  reasoning,  and  vitally  persuasive 
as  it  first  comes  ;  but  when  transmitted  the  evidence  loses 
its  edge,  words  drop  their  full  meaning,  and  inert  conven 
tions  falsify  the  insights  of  those  who  had  instituted  them. 
Therefore,  reform,  revision,  restatement  are  perpetually 
required  :  any  individual,  according  to  this  view,  who 


honestly  corrected  tradition  was  sure  to  improve  upon  it. 
Whatsoever  was  not  the  fresh  handiwork  of  the  soul  and 
true  to  its  present  demand  was  bad  for  that  soul.  A 
man  without  traditions,  if  he  could  only  be  materially 
well  equipped,  would  be  purer,  more  rational,  more 
virtuous  than  if  he  had  been  an  heir  to  anything.  Weh  dir, 
dass  du  ein  Enkel  bist !  Blessed  are  the  orphans,  for  they 
shall  deserve  to  have  children ;  blessed  the  American  ! 
Philosophy  should  be  transcendental,  history  romantic  and 
focussed  in  one's  own  country,  politics  democratic,  and 
art  individual  and  above  convention.  Variety  in  religious 
dogma  would  only  prove  the  truth — that  is,  the  inwardness 
— of  inspiration. 

Yet  if  this  transcendental  freedom  had  been  the  whole 
of  liberalism,  would  not  the  animals,  such  of  them  at 
least  as  are  not  gregarious,  have  been  the  most  perfect 
liberals  ?  Are  they  not  ruled  wholly  from  within  ?  Do 
they  not  enjoy  complete  freedom  of  conscience  and  of 
expression  ?  Does  Mrs.  Grundy  interfere  with  their 
spontaneous  actions  ?  Are  they  ever  compelled  to  fight 
except  by  their  own  impulse  and  in  their  private  interest  ? 
Yet  it  was  not  the  ideal  of  liberalism  to  return  to  nature ; 
far  from  it.  It  admonished  the  dogs  not  to  bark  and  bite, 
even  if,  in  the  words  of  the  sacred  poet,  "  it  is  their  nature 
to."  Dogs,  according  to  transcendental  philosophy,  ought 
to  improve  their  nature,  and  to  behave  better.  A  chief 
part  of  the  liberal  inspiration  was  the  love  of  peace,  safety, 
comfort,  and  general  information ;  it  aimed  at  stable 
wealth,  it  insisted  on  education,  it  venerated  culture.  It 
was  wholly  out  of  sympathy  with  the  wilder  instincts  of 
man,  with  the  love  of  foraging,  of  hunting,  of  fighting,  of 
plotting,  of  carousing,  or  of  doing  penance.  It  had  an 
acute,  a  sickening  horror  of  suffering ;  to  be  cruel  was 
devilish  and  to  be  hardened  to  pain  was  brutal.  I  am 
afraid  liberalism  was  hopelessly  pre-Nietzschean  ;  it  was 
Victorian  ;  it  was  tame.  In  inviting  every  man  to  be 
free  and  autonomous  it  assumed  that,  once  free,  he  would 
wish  to  be  rich,  to  be  educated,  and  to  be  demure.  How 
could  he  possibly  fail  to  covet  a  way  of  life  which,  in  the 
eyes  of  liberals,  was  so  obviously  the  best  ?  It  must  have 
been  a  painful  surprise  to  them,  and  most  inexplicable, 


that  hardly  anybody  who  has  had  a  taste  of  the  liberal 
system  has  ever  liked  it. 

What  about  liberty  in  love  ?  If  there  is  one  ingenuous 
and  winged  creature  among  the  immortals,  it  is  Eros  ; 
the  freer  and  more  innocent  love  is,  the  more  it  will  flutter, 
the  farther  it  will  range,  and  the  higher  it  will  soar.  But 
at  the  touch  of  matter,  of  conditions,  of  consequences, 
how  all  its  freedom  shrivels,  or  turns  into  tragedy  !  What 
prohibitions,  what  hypocrisies,  what  responsibilities,  what 
sorrows !  The  progress  of  civilization  compels  love  to 
respect  the  limits  set  to  it  by  earlier  vows,  by  age,  sex, 
class,  race,  religion,  blood  relationship,  and  even  fictitious 
relationship  ;  bounds  of  which  the  impertinent  Eros  him 
self  knows  nothing.  Society  smothers  the  imp  altogether 
in  the  long  christening-clothes  of  domestic  affection  and 
religious  duty.  What  was  once  a  sensuous  intoxication, 
a  mystic  rapture,  an  enchanted  friendship,  becomes  all  a 
question  of  money,  of  habit,  of  children.  British  liberalism 
has  been  particularly  cruel  to  love  ;  in  the  Victorian  era  all 
its  amiable  impulses  were  reputed  indecent,  until  a  marriage 
certificate  suddenly  rendered  them  godly,  though  still 
unmentionable.  And  what  liberty  does  even  the  latest 
radicalism  offer  to  the  heart  ?  Liberty  to  be  divorced ; 
divorced  at  great  expense,  with  shabby  perjuries  and 
public  scandal,  probably  in  order  to  be  at  once  married 
again,  until  the  next  divorce.  Was  it  not  franker  and 
nobler  to  leave  love,  as  in  Spain,  to  the  poets  ;  to  let  the 
stripling  play  the  guitar  as  much  as  he  liked  in  the  moon 
light,  exchange  passionate  glances,  whisper  daily  at  the 
lattice,  and  then,  dressing  the  bride  in  black,  to  dismiss 
free  fancy  at  the  church  door,  saying :  Henceforth  let 
thy  names  be  charity  and  fidelity  and  obedience  ? 

It  is  not  politics  that  can  bring  true  liberty  to  the  soul ; 
that  must  be  achieved,  if  at  all,  by  philosophy ;  but 
liberalism  may  bring  large  opportunities  for  achievement 
in  a  man's  outward  life.  It  intensifies — because  it  renders 
attainable — the  lure  of  public  distinction,  of  luxury,  of 
love  surrounded  by  refined  pleasures.  The  liberal  state 
stimulates  the  imagination  of  an  ambitious  man  to  the 
highest  degree.  Those  who  have  a  good  start  in  the 
universal  competition,  or  sharp  wits,  or  audacity,  will 


find  plenty  of  prizes  awaiting  them.  With  the  pride  of 
wealth,  when  it  is  great,  there  comes  the  pride  of 
munificence ;  in  the  suburbs  of  wealth  there  is  culture, 
and  in  its  service  there  is  science.  When  science  can 
minister  to  wealth  and  intelligence  to  dominion,  both  can 
be  carried  on  the  shoulders  of  the  plutocracy  which 
dominates  the  liberal  state ;  and  they  can  fill  it  with 
innumerable  comforts  and  marvellous  inventions.  At  the 
same  time,  nothing  will  hinder  the  weaker  members  of 
rich  families  from  becoming  clergymen  or  even  scholars 
or  artists  ;  or  they  may  range  over  the  five  continents, 
hunt  whatever  wild  beasts  remain  in  the  jungle,  and  write 
books  about  savages. 

Whether  these  prizes  offered  by  liberal  society  are  worth 
winning,  I  cannot  say  from  experience,  never  having  desired 
them  ;  but  the  aspects  of  modern  life  which  any  one  may 
observe,  and  the  analytic  picture  of  it  which  the  novelists 
supply,  are  not  very  attractive.  Wealth  is  always,  even 
when  most  secure,  full  of  itch  and  fear ;  worry  about 
health,  children,  religion,  marriage,  servants ;  and  the 
awful  question  of  where  to  live,  when  one  may  live  any 
where,  and  yet  all  seems  to  depend  on  the  choice.  For 
the  politician,  politics  are  less  important  than  his  private 
affairs,  and  less  interesting  than  bridge  ;  and  he  has  always 
a  party,  or  a  wicked  opposition,  on  which  to  throw  the 
blame  if  his  careless  measures  turn  out  badly.  No  one  in 
office  can  be  a  true  statesman,  because  a  true  statesman 
is  consistent,  and  public  opinion  will  never  long  support 
any  consistent  course.  What  the  successful  man  in 
modern  society  really  most  cares  about  is  love  ;  love  for 
him  is  a  curious  mixture  of  sensuality,  vanity,  and  friend 
ship  ;  it  lights  up  all  the  world  of  his  thought  and  action 
with  its  secret  and  unsteady  flame.  Even  when  mutual  and 
legal,  it  seems  to  be  three-quarters  anxiety  and  sorrow  ; 
for  if  nothing  worse  happens  to  lovers,  they  grow  old.  I 
hear  no  laughter  among  the  rich  which  is  not  forced  and 
nervous.  I  find  no  sense  of  moral  security  amongst  them,  no 
happy  freedom,  no  mastery  over  anything.  Yet  this  is  the 
very  cream  of  liberal  life,  the  brilliant  success  for  the  sake 
of  which  Christendom  was  overturned,  and  the  dull  peasantry 
elevated  into  factory-hands,  shopkeepers,  and  chauffeurs. 


When  the  lists  are  open  to  all,  and  the  one  aim  of  life 
is  to  live  as  much  as  possible  like  the  rich,  the  majority 
must  needs  be  discouraged.  The  same  task  is  proposed 
to  unequal  strengths,  and  the  competition  emphasizes 
the  inequality.  There  was  more  encouragement  for 
mediocre  people  when  happiness  was  set  before  them  in 
mediocrity,  or  in  excellence  in  some  special  craft.  Now 
the  mass,  hopelessly  out  of  the  running  in  the  race  for 
wealth,  falls  out  and  drifts  into  squalor.  Since  there  is 
liberty,  the  listless  man  will  work  as  little  and  drink  as 
much  as  he  can ;  he  will  crawl  into  whatever  tenement 
he  can  get  cheapest,  seek  the  society  in  which  least  effort 
is  demanded  and  least  shame  is  felt,  have  as  many  children 
as  improvidence  sends  him,  let  himself  out,  at  a  pinch, 
for  whatever  service  and  whatever  wages  he  can  obtain, 
drift  into  some  syndicated  servitude  or  some  great  migra 
tion,  or  sink  in  solitude  into  the  deepest  misery.  He  then 
becomes  a  denizen  of  those  slimy  quarters,  under  the  shadow 
of  railway  bridges,  breweries,  and  gas-works,  where  the 
blear  lights  of  a  public -house  peer  through  the  rain  at 
every  corner,  and  offer  him  the  one  joy  remaining  in  life  ; 
for  Joy  is  not  to  be  mentioned  in  the  same  breath  as  the 
female  prowling  by  the  door,  hardly  less  befuddled  and 
bedraggled  than  the  lurching  idlers  whom  she  endeavours 
to  entice  ;  but  perhaps  God  does  not  see  all  this,  because 
a  pall  hangs  over  it  perpetually  of  impenetrable  smoke. 
The  liberal  system,  which  sought  to  raise  the  individual, 
has  degraded  the  masses  ;  and  this  on  so  vast  a  scale  and 
to  so  pitiable  a  degree,  that  the  other  element  in  liberalism, 
philanthropic  zeal,  has  come  again  to  the  fore.  Liberty  go 
hang,  say  the  new  radicals  ;  let  us  save  the  people.  Liberal 
legislation,  which  was  to  have  reduced  government  to  the 
minimum  of  police  control,  now  has  undertaken  public  educa 
tion,  social  reform,  and  even  the  management  of  industry. 

This  happy  people  can  read.  It  supports  a  press 
conforming  to  the  tastes  of  the  common  man,  or  rather  to 
such  tastes  as  common  men  can  have  in  common  ;  for  the 
best  in  each  is  not  diffused  enough  to  be  catered  for  in 
public.  Moreover,  this  press  is  audaciously  managed  by 
some  adventitious  power,  which  guides  it  for  its  own 
purposes,  commercial  or  sectarian.  Superstitions  old  and 


new  thrive  in  this  infected  atmosphere  ;  they  are  now  all 
treated  with  a  curious  respect,  as  if  nobody  could  have 
anything  to  object  to  them.  It  is  all  a  scramble  of 
prejudices  and  rumours ;  whatever  first  catches  the  ear 
becomes  a  nucleus  for  all  further  presumptions  and 
sympathies.  Advertising  is  the  modern  substitute  for 
argument,  its  function  is  to  make  the  worse  appear  the 
better  article.  A  confused  competition  of  all  propagandas 
— those  insults  to  human  nature — is  carried  on  by  the 
most  expert  psychological  methods,  which  the  art  of 
advertising  has  discovered ;  for  instance,  by  always 
repeating  a  lie,  when  it  has  been  exposed,  instead  of 
retracting  it.  The  world  at  large  is  deafened  ;  but  each 
propaganda  makes  its  little  knot  of  proselytes,  and  inspires 
them  with  a  new  readiness  to  persecute  and  to  suffer  in 
the  sacred  cause.  The  only  question  is,  which  propaganda 
can  first  materially  reach  the  greatest  number  of  persons, 
and  can  most  efficaciously  quench  all  the  others.  At 
present,  it  looks  as  if  the  German,  the  Catholic,  and  the 
communist  propaganda  had  the  best  chances  ;  but  these 
three  are  divergent  essentially  (though  against  a  common 
enemy  they  may  work  for  a  while  together,  as  they  did 
during  this  war),  and  they  appeal  to  different  weaknesses 
of  human  nature  ;  they  are  alike,  however,  in  being  equally 
illiberal,  equally  "  rucksichtlos "  and  "  bose,"  equally 
regardless  of  the  harm  they  may  do,  and  accounting  it 
all  an  added  glory,  like  baiting  the  devil.  By  giving  a 
free  rein  to  such  propagandas,  and  by  disgusting  the  people 
with  too  much  optimism,  toleration,  and  neutrality, 
liberalism  has  introduced  a  new  reign  of  unqualified  ill- 
will.  Hatred  and  wilfulness  are  everywhere ;  nations 
and  classes  are  called  to  life  on  purpose  to  embody  them  ; 
they  are  summoned  by  their  leaders  to  shake  off  the 
lethargy  of  contentment  and  to  become  conscious  of  their 
existence  and  of  their  terrible  wrongs.  These  propagandas 
have  taken  shape  in  the  blue  sky  of  liberalism,  like  so 
many  summer  clouds  ;  they  seem  airships  sailing  under  a 
flag  of  truce  ;  but  they  are  engines  of  war,  and  on  the 
first  occasion  they  will  hoist  their  true  colours,  and  break 
the  peace  which  allowed  them  to  cruise  over  us  so  leisurely. 
Each  will  try  to  establish  its  universal  ascendancy  by  force, 


in  contempt  of  personal  freedom,  or  the  voice  of  majorities. 
It  will  rely,  against  the  apathy  and  vagueness  of  the  million, 
on  concentrated  zeal  in  its  adepts.  Minorities  everywhere 
have  their  way ;  and  majorities,  grown  familiar  with  pro 
jects  that  at  first  shocked  them,  decide  one  fine  morning 
that  there  may  be  no  harm  in  them  after  all,  and  follow 
like  sheep.  Every  trade,  sect,  private  company,  and 
aspiring  nation,  finding  some  one  to  lead  it,  asserts  itself 
"  ruthlessly  "  against  every  other.  Incipient  formations 
in  the  body  politic,  cutting  across  and  subverting  its  old 
constitution,  eat  one  another  up,  like  different  species  of 
animals ;  and  the  combat  can  never  cease  except  some 
day,  perhaps,  for  lack  of  combatants.  Liberalism  has 
merely  cleared  a  field  in  which  every  soul  and  every 
corporate  interest  may  fight  with  every  other  for  domina 
tion.  Whoever  is  victorious  in  this  struggle  will  make 
an  end  of  liberalism  ;  and  the  new  order,  which  will  deem 
itself  saved,  will  have  to  defend  itself  in  the  following  age 
against  a  new  crop  of  rebels. 

For  myself,  even  if  I  could  live  to  see  it,  I  should  not 
be  afraid  of  the  future  domination,  whatever  it  may  be. 
One  has  to  live  in  some  age,  under  some  fashion  ;  I  have 
found,  in  different  times  and  places,  the  liberal,  the  Catholic, 

iand  the  German  air  quite  possible  to  breathe ;  nor,  I  am 
sure,  would  communism  be  without  its  advantages  to  a 
j  free  mind,  and  its  splendid  emotions.  Fanatics,  as  Tacitus 
said  of  the  Jews  or  Christians,  are  consumed  with  hatred 
of  the  human  race,  which  offends  them  ;  yet  they  are 
themselves  human  ;  and  nature  in  them  takes  its  revenge, 
and  something  reasonable  and  sweet  bubbles  up  out  of 
the  very  fountain  of  their  madness.  Once  established  in 
the  world  the  new  dispensation  forms  a  ruling  caste,  a 
conventional  morality,  a  standard  of  honour ;  safety  and 
happiness  soften  the  heart  of  the  tyrant.  Aristocracy 
knows  how  to  kiss  the  ruddy  cheeks  of  its  tenants'  children  ; 
and  before  mounting  its  thoroughbred  horse  at  the  park 
gates,  it  pats  him  with  a  gloved  hand,  and  gives  him  a 
lump  of  sugar  ;  nor  does  it  forget  to  ask  the  groom,  with  a 
kindly  interest,  when  he  is  setting  out  for  the  war.  Poor 
flunkey !  The  demagogues  will  tell  him  he  is  a  fool,  to 
let  himself  be  dragooned  into  a  regiment,  and  marched  off 


to  endure  untold  privations,  death,  or  ghastly  wounds, 
all  for  some  fantastic  reason  which  is  nothing  to  him. 
It  is  a  hard  fate  ;  but  can  this  world  promise  anybody 
anything  better  ?  For  the  moment  he  will  have  a  smart 
uniform  ;  beers  and  lasses  will  be  obtainable ;  many- 
comrades  will  march  by  his  side  ;  and  he  may  return,  if 
he  is  lucky,  to  work  again  in  his  master's  stables,  lounge 
at  the  public-house,  and  bounce  his  children  on  his  knee 
amongst  the  hollyhocks  before  his  cottage.  Would  the 
demagogues  give  him  better  prospects,  or  prove  better 
masters  ?  Would  he  be  happier  with  no  masters  at  all  ? 
Consider  the  demagogues  themselves,  and  their  history. 
They  found  themselves  in  the  extreme  of  misery  ;  but 
even  this  is  a  sort  of  distinction,  and  marks  off  a  new 
species,  seizing  new  weapons  in  the  struggle  for  existence. 
The  scum  of  the  earth  gathers  itself  together,  becomes  a 
criminal  or  a  revolutionary  society,  finds  some  visionary 
or  some  cosmopolitan  agitator  to  lead  it,  establishes  its 
own  code  of  ethics,  imposes  the  desperate  discipline  of 
outlaws  upon  its  members,  and  prepares  to  rend  the  free 
society  that  allowed  it  to  exist.  It  is  astonishing  with 
what  docility  masses  of  Englishmen,  supposed  to  be  jealous 
of  their  personal  liberty,  will  obey  such  a  revolutionary 
junta,  that  taxes  and  commands  them,  and  decrees  when 
they  shall  starve  and  when  they  shall  fight.  I  suspect 
that  the  working-people  of  the  towns  no  longer  have 
what  was  called  the  British  character.  Their  forced 
unanimity  in  action  and  passion  is  like  that  of  the  ages 
of  faith  ;  its  inspiration,  like  that  of  early  Christianity, 
comes  from  a  few  apostles,  perhaps  foreign  Jews,  men 
who  in  the  beginning  had  visions  of  some  millennium  ; 
and  the  cohesion  of  the  faithful  is  maintained  afterwards 
by  preaching,  by  custom,  by  persecution,  and  by  murder. 
Yet  it  is  intelligible  that  the  most  earnest  liberals,  who 
in  so  far  as  they  were  advocates  of  liberty  fostered  these 
conspiracies,  in  so  far  as  they  are  philanthropists  should 
applaud  them,  and  feel  the  need  of  this  new  tyranny. 
They  save  liberal  principles  by  saying  that  they  applaud 
it  only  provisionally  as  a  necessary  means  of  freeing  the 
people.  But  of  freeing  the  people  from  what  ?  From  the 
consequences  of  freedom. 



ENGLAND  has  been  curiously  served  by  her  philosophers. 
Personally  and  in  their  first  intention  they  have  usually 
been  sturdy  Britons  ;  but  their  scope  has  seldom  been 
equal  to  their  sagacity  in  particular  matters,  they  have 
not  divined  the  ultimate  drift  of  their  ideas,  and  they 
have  often  ended  by  adopting,  a  little  blankly  and  doggedly, 
some  foreign  or  fantastic  system,  apparently  most  in 
expressive  of  John  Bull.  Nevertheless  the  exotic  tendency 
in  so  many  British  philosophers,  as  in  so  many  disaffected 
British  poets,  is  itself  a  mark  of  the  British  character. 
The  crust  of  convention  has  solidified  too  soon,  and  the 
suppressed  fires  issue  in  little  erratic  streams  that  seem  of 
an  alien  substance.  In  speculation  as  in  other  things  the 
Englishman  trusts  his  inner  man ;  his  impulse  is  to 
soliloquize  even  in  science.  At  the  same  time  his  inner 
man  dislikes  to  be  too  articulate  ;  he  is  soon  at  a  stand 
in  direct  self  -  expression ;  and  as  a  poet  may  take  to 
describing  nature  or  Italian  passions,  so  a  philosopher 
may  pick  up  some  alien  doctrine  that  comes  to  hand,  and 
that  seems  friendly  to  his  mind  ;  not  understanding  it 
very  well,  perhaps,  in  its  native  quality,  but  making  it  a 
living  companion  in  his  own  lucubrations,  and  a  symbol 
for  what  remains  hidden  but  revered  in  his  breast.  In 
this  way  the  Bible  or  Plato  may  serve  him  to  found  sects 
upon  exclusively  expressing  his  own  feelings  ;  or  remaining 
a  plain  Englishman  to  all  practical  purposes,  he  may 
become,  for  his  greater  private  satisfaction,  a  revolutionary 
atheist,  a  spiritualist,  a  Catholic,  or  a  Buddhist.  In  such 
strange  allegiances  something  may  be  due  to  wayward 
learning,  or  to  genuine  plasticity  of  mind  and  power  to 
feel  as  very  different  souls  have  felt  in  other  climes ;  but 
a  part  is  unmistakable  helplessness  and  dire  need,  and  a 
part,  perhaps,  affectation. 

When  his  own  resources  fail,  however,  the  most  obvious 
easement  and  support  for  the  English  inner  man  are  the 
classical  and  Anglican  traditions  he  has  been  bred  in, 
when  these  are  not  too  nicely  defined  nor  too  slavishly 


followed.  Most  characteristic  is  John  Bull  the  theologian, 
instinct  with  heresy  and  practising  compromise  ;  but  the 
rationalistic  John  Bull  is  very  like  him  in  his  alternative 
way  of  securing  the  same  supreme  object  of  thinking  what 
he  likes  to  think.  In  both  cases  he  embraces  his  opinions 
much  more  because  they  are  wholesome  and  important 
than  because  they  are  certain  or  clear.  Opinions,  he  feels, 
should  be  summary  and  safe  ;  they  should  express  the 
lessons  of  experience. 

As  he  conceives  it  at  first,  experience  does  not  merely 
exist,  it  teaches.  In  a  sporadic  fashion  it  yields  sound 
satisfactions,  clear  warnings,  plain  facts.  It  admonishes 
him  to  trust  his  senses,  the  reports  of  reputable  travellers 
and  naturalists,  Christianity,  and  the  British  constitution, 
all  when  duly  revised  ;  and  on  the  other  hand  to  shun 
popery,  scholastic  quibbles,  absolutism,  and  revolution. 
But  evidently  experience  could  never  teach  him  these 
things  if  his  inner  man  did  not  contribute  its  decided 
cravings  and  aversions.  His  inner  man  detests  dictation 
and  loves  opportunity  ;  in  ideas  it  prefers  timeliness  to 
finality.  Therefore,  when  his  philosophers  come  upon 
the  scene  they  cannot  appeal  to  him  by  coercive  proofs, 
nor  by  the  impressive  architecture  of  their  systems,  nor 
by  disentangling  and  setting  clearly  before  him  any 
ultimate  ideal.  To  win  his  ear  they  must  rather  drive 
his  current  convictions  home,  nearer  to  their  source  in 
himself  ;  they  must  invite  him  to  concentrate  his  empiri 
cism.  For  instance,  he  trusts  his  senses ;  and  the 
philosophers  can  deeply  interest  him  if  they  ask  him 
what,  precisely,  his  senses  vouch  for.  Is  it  external 
things  ?  But  can  he  actually  see  anything  except  colours, 
or  touch  anything  except  resistances  ?  Can  he  feel  any 
thing  except  his  own  sensations  ?  By  appealing  to  his 
honesty,  the  sophists  catch  him  in  a  trap,  and  he  changes 
his  mind  in  trying  to  utter  it.  It  will  appear  presently, 
as  he  pursues  his  inquiry,  that  he  has  no  knowledge  of 
those  external  things  and  events  which  he  had  been  so 
sure  of ;  they  were  mere  empty  notions,  and  his  genuine 
experience  contained  nothing  but  the  pulses  of  his  inner 
life,  changes  in  his  ideas  and  vital  temperature,  which  an 
accurate  autobiography  might  record.  And  the  more 


scrupulously  he  considers  these  pulses  of  his  inner  life  the 
less  and  less  will  he  find  in  them.  He  and  his  whole 
experience  will  soon  be  reduced  to  a  series  of  sensations 
in  single  file,  with  nothing  behind  them.  In  reality  even 
this  is  too  much.  Although  the  inertia  of  psychological 
conventions  and  the  romantic  habit  of  self-consciousness 
have  kept  him  from  perceiving  it,  even  to  this  day,  yet  the 
fact  that  a  sensation  is  occurring  is  not  revealed  by  that 
sensation  itself  ;  no  date,  place,  or  relation  to  a  mind  is 
included  in  its  deliverance,  and  no  relation  to  anything 
before  or  beyond  ;  so  that  the  bare  datum  of  sensation 
is  an  aesthetic  being,  not  a  mental  one ;  an  ideal  term,  not 
an  event ;  a  universal  essence,  not  a  particular  fact ;  and 
immersion  in  sense  or  in  absolute  immediate  experience, 
when  animal  faith  and  intelligence  are  taken  away  from 
it,  would  remove  from  us  every  vestige  of  the  notion  that 
anything  exists  or  that  anything  happens.  But  without 
pushing  analysis  so  far,  the  empirical  philosophers  left 
John  Bull,  when  he  listened  to  them,  singularly  bereft 
of  those  comfortable  impedimenta  with  which  he  had 
expected  to  travel  through  life — without  a  body,  without 
an  environment,  without  a  ground,  or  any  natural  perfec 
tion  or  destiny,  for  his  moral  being.  He  had  loved 
exploration,  and  had  looked  forward  with  the  flush  of 
confidence  to  the  knowledge  and  power  which  his  dis 
coveries  would  bring  him  ;  but  now  he  saw  that  all  dis 
coveries  were  incalculable,  arbitrary,  and  provisional,  since 
they  were  not  truly  discoveries,  but  only  developments. 

Here  was  an  odd  transformation.  The  self-educated 
merchants  and  indignant  reformers  who,  thumping  their 
desks  dogmatically,  had  appealed  so  roundly  to  the 
evidence  of  their  senses,  little  expected  that  their  philosophy 
was  directed  to  turning  them  in  the  end  into  inarticulate 
sensualists,  rapt  in  omphalic  contemplation  of  their  states 
of  mind.  Some  academic  idealists,  disliking  this  result, 
which  cast  a  slur  on  the  pre-eminence  of  spirituality  and 
learning,  and  yet  not  being  willing  or  able  to  give  up  the 
method  by  which  that  result  had  been  reached,  sought  to 
push  the  inquiry  further,  and  to  come  out  of  the  wood 
on  quite  the  other  side.  My  sensations,  they  said,  since  I 
can  now  survey  the  whole  series  they  form,  must  all  exist 


together  in  my  present  apprehension  ;  and  as  I  cannot 
know  them  except  in  this  single  and  present  glance,  they 
never  can  have  existed  out  of  it ;  so  that  I  am  not  really 
a  series  of  sensations,  but  only  the  idea  that  I  am  a  series 
of  sensations  ;  in  other  words,  I  have  become  a  single 
sensation  instead  of  many.  To  make  this  clearer  the  same 
philosophers  added  that  this  single  sensation  or  thought, 
which  is  what  I  really  am,  is  also  God.  Experience  now 
turned  out  not  to  be  anything  that  goes  on  or  happens 
or  is  endured  ;  it  is  the  theme  of  an  immutable  divine 
contemplation  and  divine  satisfaction.  I  am  God  in  so 
far  as  I  think  and  approve  ;  but  the  chequered  experience 
which  I  supposed  myself  to  be  undergoing  is  merely  imputed 
to  myself  by  God  and  me  in  our  thinking. 

This  second  conclusion,  like  the  first,  has  its  value  for 
some  temperaments.  It  brings  suddenly  before  us,  as  if 
it  were  an  accomplished  fact,  the  innate  ideal  of  the 
intellect :  to  see  the  changing  aspects  of  all  things  from 
above,  in  their  true  eternal  relations.  But  this  ideal,  too, 
is  utterly  disparate  from  that  practical  experience  and 
prevision  which  John  Bull  prizes  so  highly  and  thinks  he 
possesses  ;  indeed,  the  sublimity  of  this  view  lies  precisely 
in  its  tendency  to  freeze  and  submerge  all  experience, 
transmuting  hard  facts  and  anxious  events  into  painted 
ships  upon  a  painted  ocean,  and  for  our  stumbling  and 
unfinished  progress  substituting  a  bound  volume  of  travels. 

What  false  step  could  bring  British  philosophy,  in  its 
gropings,  to  conclusions  so  un-English  that  even  those 
who  feel  compelled  to  propose  them  do  so  shamefacedly, 
with  many  euphemisms  and  convenient  confusions,  or 
even  fail  altogether  to  understand  the  tremendous  paradoxes 
they  are  repeating  ?  It  was  a  false  step  at  which  Hobbes 
halted,  which  Locke  took  unsuspectingly,  and  which  sent 
Berkeley  and  Hume  head  over  heels  :  the  assumption  that 
facts  are  known  immediately.  In  reality  none  of  the 
facts  which  the  sturdy  Briton  feels  that  he  knows — and 
they  are  the  true  facts  of  nature  and  of  moral  life — would 
be  known  to  him  if  he  were  without  tentative  intelligence 
and  instinctive  animal  faith  ;  indeed,  without  these  the 
senses  would  have  no  virtue  and  would  inform  us  of 
nothing  ;  and  cows  would  not  see  grass  nor  horses  hay, 



but  only  green  or  yellow  patches,  like  rapt  empirical 
philosophers.  When  Hobbes  said  that  no  discourse  what 
soever  can  end  in  absolute  knowledge  of  fact,  he  uttered 
a  great  truth,  but  he  implied  a  great  error,  since  he  implied 
that  sense — meaning  the  senseless  sensations  of  idiots — 
could  give  such  knowledge  ;  whereas  the  absolute  datum 
in  sense  is  just  as  ideal,  and  just  as  little  a  fact,  as  the 
deliverance  of  the  most  theoretical  discourse  ;  and  absolute 
knowledge — if  we  call  such  apprehension  knowledge — can 
seize  only  some  aesthetic  or  logical  term,  without  any 
given  date,  place,  or  connection  in  experience.  Empiricism 
in  the  end  must  substitute  these  ideal  essences,  on  the 
ground  that  they  are  the  only  data,  for  the  facts  of  nature 
— facts  which  animal  reactions  and  the  beliefs  expressing 
them  are  requisite  to  discover,  and  which  science  defines 
by  the  cumulative  use  of  reason.  In  making  this  substitu 
tion  empiricism  passes  against  its  will  into  sensualism  or 
idealism.  Then  John  Bull  and  his  philosophers  part 
company  :  he  sticks  manfully  to  his  confused  conventional 
opinions,  which  after  all  give  him  a  very  tolerable  know 
ledge  of  the  facts  ;  while  they  go  digging  for  an  absolute 
knowledge  of  fact,  which  is  impossible,  in  an  intuitive 
cloudland  where  there  are  only  aesthetic  essences.  Hence 
the  bankruptcy  of  their  enterprise.  Immediate  data  are 
the  counters  of  experience,  but  they  are  the  money  of 


To  many  an  Englishman  the  human  head  seems  too 
luxuriant.  With  its  quantities  of  superfluous  words  and 
ideas,  it  grows  periodically  hot  and  messy,  and  needs  a 
thorough  cropping  and  scrubbing.  To  this  end,  William 
of  Occam  long  ago  invented  his  razor :  entia  non  multi- 
plicanda  praeter  necessitate™ ;  a  maxim  calculated  to 
shave  the  British  inner  man  clean,  and  make  a  roundhead 
of  him,  not  to  say  a  blockhead.  That  everything  is 
"  nothing  but  "  something  else,  probably  inferior  to  it, 
became  in  time  a  sort  of  refrain  in  his  politics  and 


philosophy.  He  saw  that  reflection  was  constantly  em 
broidering  on  the  facts  ;  but  did  he  suppose  that  the 
pattern  of  things  was  really  simpler  than  that  of  ideas, 
or  did  he  feel  that,  however  elaborate  things  might  be, 
thought  at  least  might  be  simple  ?  At  any  rate,  he  aimed 
instinctively  at  economy  of  terms,  retrenchment  in  belief, 
reduction  of  theory  to  the  irreducible  minimum.  If 
theory  was  not  useful,  what  was  the  use  of  it  ?  And 
certainly  all  that  can  be  said  for  some  theories  is  that 
perhaps  they  are  useful ;  and  when  ideas  are  merely 
useful,  being  worthless  in  themselves  and  absorbing  human 
caloric,  the  less  we  require  of  them  the  better.  Thought 
might  then  be  merely  a  means  to  a  life  without  thought, 
and  belief  a  door  to  a  heaven  where  no  beliefs  were 
expected  ;  all  speech  might  be  like  the  curt  words  one 
says  to  the  waiter,  in  the  hope  of  presently  dining  in 
silence  ;  and  all  looking  might  be  looking  out,  as  in  crossing 
a  crowded  street,  ending  in  the  blessed  peace  of  not  having 
to  look  any  more. 

Occam's  razor  has  gradually  shorn  British  and  German 
philosophy  of  the  notions  of  substance  and  cause,  matter 
and  God,  truth  and  the  soul.  Sometimes  these  terms 
were  declared  to  stand  for  nothing  whatever,  because 
(as  in  the  case  of  matter  and  substance)  if  I  reduced  myself 
to  a  state  of  artificial  stupidity  I  might  for  a  moment 
stop  short  of  the  conception  of  them.  More  often  (as  in 
the  case  of  the  soul)  the  term  was  declared  to  stand  for 
something  real,  which,  however,  was  "  nothing  but " 
something  else.  Of  course,  all  words  and  thoughts  stand 
for  something  else  ;  and  the  question  is  only  whether  we 
can  find  another  word  or  thought  that  will  express  the 
reality  better.  Thus,  if  I  said  that  the  soul  was  "  nothing 
but  "  a  series  of  sensations,  I  should  soon  have  to  add 
that  this  series,  to  make  up  a  soul,  must  arise  in  the  same 
animal  body,  and  must  be  capable  of  being  eventually 
surveyed  and  recalled  together  ;  while  I  should  have  to 
assign  to  some  other  obscure  agency  those  unconscious 
vital  functions  which  were  formerly  attributed  to  the  soul 
in  forming  and  governing  the  body,  and  breeding  the 
passions  ;  functions  without  which  my  series  of  sensations 
would  hardly  be  what  it  is.  I  am  not  confident  that  all 


this  laboured  psychology  makes  things  much  clearer  in 
the  end,  or  does  not  multiply  entities  without  necessity  ; 
since  where  I  had  simply  spoken  of  the  soul,  I  should  now 
have  to  speak  of  sensations,  series,  possibility,  synthesis, 
personal  identity,  the  transcendental  unity  of  apperception, 
and  the  unconscious  mind.  Something  is  doubtless  gained 
by  coining  these  modern  and  questionable  expressions, 
since  they  indicate  true  complexities  in  the  facts,  while  a 
poetic  term  like  "  soul  "  covers  them  only  by  pointing 
the  finger  of  childish  wonder  at  them,  without  analysis. 
Nature  is  far  more  complicated  than  any  language  or 
philosophy,  and  the  more  these  refine,  the  closer  they 
can  fit.  The  anxiety  of  the  honest  Occam  to  stick  to  the 
facts,  and  pare  his  thoughts  to  the  quick,  had  this  justifica 
tion  in  it,  that  sometimes  our  images  and  distinctions  are 
misplaced.  Grammar,  usurping  the  role  of  physics,  created 
metaphysics,  the  trouble  with  which  is  not  at  all  that  it 
multiplies  entities,  since  no  metaphysician  can  invent 
anything  that  did  not  lie  from  all  eternity  in  the  realm 
of  essence,  like  the  plot  of  unwritten  novels,  waiting  for 
some  one  with  wit  enough  to  think  of  it.  The  trouble  is 
rather  that  the  metaphysician  probably  gives  his  favourite 
essences  the  wrong  status.  These  beings  may  well  be 
absent  from  the  time  and  place  to  which  he  hastily  assigns 
them  ;  they  may  even  be  incongruous  altogether  with 
what  happens  to  exist  anywhere.  What  happens  to  exist 
is  perhaps  what  he  thinks  he  is  describing,  or  what,  like 
Occam,  he  would  like  to  describe  if  he  could  ;  but  he  is 
probably  not  able.  Yet  that  doesn't  matter  so  much  as 
he  imagines.  What  happens  to  exist  can  take  very  good 
care  of  itself,  and  is  quite  indifferent  to  what  people 
think  of  it ;  and  as  for  us,  if  we  possess  such  cursory 
knowledge  of  the  nearer  parts  of  existence  as  is  sufficient 
for  our  safety,  there  is  no  reason  why  we  should  attend  to 
it  too  minutely  :  there's  metal  more  attractive  in  discourse 
and  in  fiction.  Mind,  as  Hobbes  said,  is  fancy,  and  it  is 
the  things  of  fancy  that  greet  us  first  and  reward  us  best. 
They  are  far  from  being  more  absurd  than  the  facts.  In 
themselves,  all  things  are  equally  unnecessary  and  equally 
possible  ;  for  their  own  part,  all  are  equally  ready  to  be 
thought  of  or  even  to  be  born.  It  is  only  the  routine  of 


nature  or  the  sluggish  human  imagination  that  refuses  to 
admit  most  of  them,  as  country  people  refuse  to  admit  that 
foreign  languages  or  manners  might  do  as  well  as  their  own. 
If  God  or  nature  had  used  Occam's  razor  and  had 
hesitated  to  multiply  beings  without  necessity,  where  should 
we  be  ?  Far  from  practising  economy,  nature  is  pre 
vented  from  overflowing  into  every  sort  of  flourish  and 
excrescence  only  by  the  local  paucity  of  matter,  or  the 
pre-emption  of  it  by  other  forms ;  because  forms,  once 
embodied  in  matter,  acquire  all  its  inertia,  and  grow 
dreadfully  stubborn  and  egotistical.  Scrimpy  philosophers 
little  know  whose  stewards  they  are  when  they  complain 
of  lavishness  in  nature,  or  her  lordly  way  of  living ;  her 
substance  cannot  be  spent,  nor  its  transformations  ex 
hausted.  In  sheer  play,  and  without  being  able  to  help 
it,  she  will  suddenly  create  organization,  or  memory,  or 
intelligence,  or  any  of  those  little  vortices  called  passions, 
persons,  or  nations,  which  sustain  themselves  for  a  moment, 
hypostatizing  their  frail  unity  into  some  moral  being — 
an  interest  or  a  soul.  And  as  we  are  superfluous  in  the 
midst  of  nature,  so  is  the  best  part  of  ourselves  superfluous 
in  us.  Poetry,  music  and  pictures,  inspired  and  shaded 
by  human  emotion,  are  surely  better  worth  having  than 
the  inarticulate  experience  they  spring  from.  Even  in 
our  apprehension  of  the  material  world,  the  best  part  is 
the  adaptation  of  it  to  our  position  and  faculties,  since 
this  is  what  introduces  boundaries,  perspectives,  comparison 
and  beauty.  It  is  only  what  exists  materially  that  exists 
without  excuse,  whereas  what  the  mind  creates  has  some 
vital  justification,  and  may  serve  to  justify  the  rest.  Hence 
the  utility  of  Occam's  razor  itself,  which  may  help  us  to 
arrive  at  a  strict  and  spare  account  of  what  the  world 
would  be  without  us  :  a  somewhat  ironical  speculation  which 
is  the  subtlest  product  and  last  luxury  of  the  scientific 
mind.  Meantime  the  sensuous  and  rhetorical  trappings  of 
human  knowledge,  from  which  exact  science  abstracts,  by 
no  means  disappear  ;  they  remain  to  enrich  the  sphere  of 
language  and  fancy,  to  which  judicious  people  always  felt 
that  they  belonged  ;  and  this  intellectual  or  literary  realm  is 
no  less  actual  and  interesting  than  any  other,  being  a  part 
of  the  moral  radiation  and  exuberance  of  a  living  world. 



EXPERIENCE  is  a  fine  word,  but  what  does  it  mean  ?  It 
seems  to  carry  with  it  a  mixed  sense  of  mastery  and  dis 
appointment,  suggesting  knowledge  of  a  sort  with  despair 
of  better  knowledge.  Is  it  such  contact  with  events  as 
nobody  can  avoid,  shocks  and  pressure  endured  from 
circumstances  and  from  the  routine  of  the  world  ?  But  a 
cricket-ball  has  no  experience,  although  it  comes  in  contact 
with  many  hands,  receives  hard  knocks,  and  plays  its  part 
in  the  vicissitudes  of  a  protracted  game.  There  are  men 
in  much  the  same  case  ;  they  travel,  they  undergo  an  illness 
or  a  conversion,  and  after  a  little  everything  in  them  is 
exactly  as  it  was  before  ;  -n-dOos  with  them  is  not  /xa#os  ; 
their  natures  are  so  faithful  to  the  a  priori  and  so  elastic 
that  they  rebound  from  the  evidence  of  sense  and  the 
buffets  of  fortune  like  a  rubber  bag  full  of  wind  ;  they  pass 
through  life  with  round  eyes  open,  and  a  perpetual  instinct 
ive  babble,  and  yet  in  the  moral  sense  of  the  word  they 
have  no  experience,  not  being  mindful  enough  to  acquire 
any.  It  would  seem  that  to  gather  anything  we  must 
first  pause,  and  that  before  we  can  have  experience  we 
must  have  minds. 

Yet  if  we  said  that  experience  arose  by  the  operation 
of  mind,  would  not  all  the  operations  of  mind  be  equally 
experience  ?  Has  not  a  maniac  probably  more  and  more 
vivid  experience  than  a  man  of  the  world  ?  Doubtless 
when  people  call  their  fancies  or  thoughts  experience, 
they  mean  to  imply  that  they  have  an  external  source, 
as  "  religious  experience  "  is  assumed  to  manifest  divine 
intervention,  and  "  psychical  experience  "  to  prove  the 
self-existence  of  departed  spirits.  But  these  assumptions 
are  not  empirical ;  and  evidently  the  religious  or  psychical 
experience  itself,  whatever  its  cause,  is  the  only  empirical 
fact  in  the  case.  Those  who  appeal  to  the  lessons  of 
experience  are  not  empiricists,  for  these  are  lessons  that 
only  reason  can  learn.  Experience,  as  practical  people 
understand  it,  is  not  every  sort  of  consciousness  or  memory, 
but  only  such  as  is  addressed  to  the  facts  of  nature  and 


controlled  by  the  influence  of  those  facts  ;  material  contact 
or  derivation  is  essential  to  it.  Experience  is  both  physical 
and  mental,  the  intellectual  fruit  of  a  material  intercourse. 
It  presupposes  animal  bodies  in  contact  with  things,  and 
it  presupposes  intelligent  minds  in  those  bodies,  keeping 
count  of  the  shocks  received,  understanding  their  causes, 
and  expecting  their  recurrence  as  it  will  actually  take 
place.  To  these  naturalistic  convictions  all  those  ought  to 
have  clung  who  valued  experience  as  a  witness  rather 
than  as  a  sensation  ;  without  animals  in  a  natural  environ 
ment  experience,  as  contrasted  with  fancy  or  intuition, 
can  neither  be  nor  be  conceived.  It  means  so  much  of 
knowledge  and  readiness  as  is  fetched  from  contact  with 
events  by  a  teachable  and  intelligent  creature  ;  it  is  a  fund 
of  wisdom  gathered  by  living  in  familiar  intercourse  with 

But  such  assumptions  are  an  offence  to  the  expert 
empiricist.  The  moment  he  comes  upon  the  scene  we 
feel  that  all  we  thought  experience  had  taught  us  is  going 
to  be  disproved.  "  Do  you  admit,"  he  begins  by  asking, 
"  that  nothing  can  be  more  real  than  experience  ?  "  We 
do  admit  it.  "  And  can  you  ever  know  anything  that  is 
not  experience  ?  "  Perhaps  not ;  and  yet  would  experience 
be  very  distinct  or  very  significant  if  it  was  experience  of 
nothing  ?  "Of  nothing,  indeed,"  he  retorts,  withering  us 
with  a  scornful  glance  and  the  consciousness  of  his  masked 
batteries ;  "  as  if  experience  itself  was  nothing  !  Experience 
is  everything  ;  and  when  you  have  experience  of  experience 
what  more  could  you  ask  for,  even  if  you  were  Doctor 
Faustus  in  person  ?  What  spurious  little  non-empirical 
particle  is  this  of  of  yours  ?  And  what  illegitimate  ghost 
is  this  something  else  that  experience  should  be  ofl  Can 
you,  without  confessing  to  an  adulterous  intercourse  with 
what  is  not  experience,  explain  these  natural  but  dis 
reputable  members  of  your  intellectual  family  ?  "  We 
cannot  explain  them,  and  we  blush.  Yet  why  should 
experience  arise  at  all  if  there  is  no  occasion  for  it  ? 
"  Occasion  !  "  cries  the  empiricist ;  "  another  illegal  figment, 
the  old  notion  of  cause  !  Is  it  not  notorious  that  causation 
is  nothing  but  the  habit  which  some  parts  of  experience 
have  of  following  upon  others  ?  How  then  should  the 


whole  of  it  follow  upon  any  part  ?  Experience  cannot 
spring  from  anything,  it  cannot  express  anything,  and  it 
cannot  know  anything,  because  experience  is  all  there  is." 

Here  is  a  considerable  retrenchment  in  the  scope  of 
our  philosophy  :  no  material  world,  no  soul,  and  (in  the 
proper  sense  of  the  words)  no  God  and  no  knowledge. 
Retrenchment,  however,  is  often  a  sign  of  wisdom,  and 
the  retrenching  empiricist  deserves  to  be  followed,  like 
the  retrenching  hermit,  into  his  psychological  wilderness, 
not  with  a  vow  never  to  return  to  the  world,  for  that 
would  be  precipitate,  but  in  the  hope  of  sounding,  in  one 
direction,  the  depths  of  spiritual  discipline  and  disillusion. 
And  the  empirical  eremite  can  taste  rare  pleasures.  All 
things,  for  him,  become  the  appanage  of  the  inner  man ; 
and  we  need  not  wonder  that  the  pensive  Englishman  is 
ready  to  be  empirical  in  this  sense  and  to  become  an 
idealist.  The  lessons  of  experience,  if  he  was  forced  to 
take  them  seriously,  might  tend  to  dethrone  his  inner  man 
and  lead  him  to  materialism  ;  but  fortunately  the  lessons 
of  experience,  for  an  empiricist,  can  be  nothing  but  little 
epicycles  within  it,  or  cross-references  to  its  literal  text ; 
they  cannot  spoil  its  intimate  and  romantic  nature,  which 
is  to  be  no  end  of  pulsations  and  no  end  of  pictures.  How 
dead  would  anything  external  or  permanent  be,  even  if 
we  thought  we  could  find  it !  How  abstract  would  be 
anything  common  to  all  times  and  places,  how  terrible  a 
mocking  truth  that  should  overarch  them  for  ever  1 

It  is  true  that  the  romantic  empiricist  is  not  very 
radical ;  he  commonly  stops  short  of  any  doubts  on  the 
validity  of  memory,  with  all  the  yarns  it  spins  ;  his  past 
adventures  and  his  growth  are  too  fascinating  for  him  to 
doubt  their  reality.  Sometimes  he  even  trusts  a  super 
stitious  prophecy,  under  the  name  of  logical  evolution, 
foretelling  what  his  destiny  is  somehow  compelled  to  be. 
At  other  times  he  prefers  to  leave  the  future  ambiguous, 
so  that  the  next  step  may  lead  him  anywhere,  perhaps  to 
heaven,  provided  it  is  understood  that  his  career,  even 
there,  is  always  to  remain  an  unfinished  voyage  in  an 
uncharted  sea.  In  strictness,  however,  he  has  no  right  to 
this  fond  interest  in  himself.  If  he  became  a  perfect 
empiricist  he  would  trust  experience  only  if  it  taught  him 


absolutely  nothing,  even  about  his  own  past.  This  is  hard 
for  the  flesh,  and  it  may  not  be  fair  to  ask  an  empiricist 
to  be  heroic  in  the  interests  of  logic  ;  but  if  he  could  screw 
his  courage  up  for  the  plunge,  his  spirit  might  find  itself 
perfectly  at  home  in  the  new  situation.  What  he  might 
have  been  or  might  have  thought,  he  would  dismiss  as  a 
dead  issue  ;  he  would  watch  only  his  present  life  as  it 
flowed,  and  he  would  love  exclusively  what  he  was  becom 
ing.  There  is  a  sense  of  safety  in  being  and  not  thinking 
which  probably  all  the  animals  know,  and  there  is  a  mystical 
happiness  in  accepting  existence  without  understanding 
it. ;  but  the  sense  of  safety  does  not  render  the  animals  really 
safe,  and  the  price  they  pay  for  living  in  the  moment  is 
that  they  carry  nothing  over  from  one  moment  to  another 
except  bare  existence  itself.  The  disadvantage  of  radical 
empiricism  is  that  it  shuts  out  experience. 


IT  was  formerly  a  matter  of  some  surprise  to  me  that 
there  should  be  so  many  Hegelians  in  England,  and  in 
such  places  of  influence.  I  could  imagine  how  the  system 
might  have  taken  root  in  circles  where  the  classic  tradition 
was  absent  or  enfeebled — in  America,  in  Scotland,  among 
the  Dissenters  or  Jews  in  England  itself  ;  but  how  could 
Oxford  and  Cambridge  fail  to  see  in  that  system  the  trail 
of  the  serpent  ?  How  could  they  mistake  it  for  a  Christian 
or  for  a  spiritual  philosophy  ?  It  is  indeed,  in  form,  an 
encyclopaedic  system,  and  in  that  sense  suitable  to 
universities  ;  and  it  deifies  knowledge  such  as  an  encyclo 
paedia  can  give,  turning  it  into  the  sum  total  of  reality, 
so  that  it  flatters  the  self-sufficiency  of  pedants,  or  that 
of  any  reflective  mind.  But  in  Oxford  and  Cambridge 
knowledge  is  not  everything ;  they  are  more  and  less 
than  universities  ;  the  learning  they  cultivate  is  selective 
and  pursued  in  the  service  of  aristocratic  liberty.  I 
should  not  expect  them  to  care  much  for  a  philosophy 
that  was  not  poetic  and  devout.  I  sometimes  fancy 


how  the  genuine  Oxonians  must  have  smiled  to  hear  T.  H. 
Green,  in  the  early  days  of  transcendentalism,  talking  about 
his  spiritual  principle  in  nature.  By  spiritual  he  meant 
mind-made  ;  he  thought  the  world,  remaining  just  as  it 
is,  could  suddenly  be  proved  to  be  spiritual  if  you  could 
show  that  a  mental  synthesis  was  requisite  to  hold  it 
together.  But  what  possible  advantage  is  it  to  the  world 
to  be  held  together  by  a  mental  synthesis,  rather  than  by 
space  or  time  or  the  truth  of  its  constitution  ?  A  synthesis 
of  worthless  facts  does  not  render  them  severally  better, 
nor  itself  a  good.  A  spirit  whose  essential  function  was 
to  create  relations  would  be  merely  a  generative  principle, 
as  the  spider  is  to  its  web  ;  it  would  be  no  better  than  its 
work,  unless  perhaps  it  was  spiritual  enough  to  grow 

r  weary  of  that  vain  labour.     Spiritual,  for  those  who  retain 
the  language  of  Christendom,  signifies  free  from  the  world 

!  and  from  the  flesh,  and  addressed  to  the  eternal  and  to  the 

Everything,  however,  has  its  explanation,  and  in  the 
matter  of  English  Hegelism  I  think  I  begin  to  see  it.  In 
the  first  place,  I  was  rashly  identifying  England  with  a 
figment  of  my  dreams,  with  which  I  was  in  love  :  I  saw 
in  my  mind's  eye  a  manly  and  single-minded  England, 
free,  candid,  poetical,  akin  to  feudal  France,  beauty- 
loving  like  old  Italy,  the  Benjamin  of  the  Roman  family 
of  nations,  adding  to  the  dignity  and  disinterestedness  of 
the  Castilian  character  only  a  certain  blond  charm,  a 
certain  infusion  of  northern  purity,  and  of  sympathy 
with  the  wild  and  rural  voices  of  nature.  In  this  England, 
in  which  there  was  something  Spartan  and  archaically 
Greek,  the  men  were  like  Hippolytus  and  the  women 
like  Antigone.  Naturally  it  was  unintelligible  to  me  that 
the  system  of  Hegel  should  take  root  in  such  a  nation. 
Persons  with  a  ripe  moral  tradition  are  not  attracted  by 
sophistry.  No  argument,  however  specious,  will  convince 
them  that  the  experience  of  man  on  earth  makes  up  the 
whole  universe,  or  the  chief  part  of  it ;  much  less  will 
they  allow  fortune,  under  the  pompous  name  of  evolution, 
to  dictate  to  them  their  moral  allegiance.  The  chief  force 
of  the  Hegelian  system  for  those  who  are  not  metaphysicians 
lies  in  the  criterion  of  progress  which  it  imposes.  This 


criterion  is  not  beauty  in  art,  nor  truth  in  philosophy, 
nor  justice  in  society,  nor  happiness  in  the  individual 
life  :  the  criterion  is  simply  the  direction  which  the  actual 
movement  happens  to  be  taking.  Hegel  endeavours  to 
show  in  what  way  forms  are  inevitably  passing  into  one 
another.  Thus  his  ethics  begs  defence  of  history,  and  his 
history  calls  for  aid  on  metaphysics.  And  what  meta 
physics  ?  A  logic  of  moral  fashions.  Now  it  seemed  to 
me  axiomatic  that  eager  co-operation  with  whatever  is 
going  on,  or  is  bound  to  win,  would  be  repulsive  to  a  man 
of  honour.  Nor  could  I  conceive  a  true  Englishman 
taking  kindly  even  to  the  grand  side  of  this  system,  which 
to  me  personally  is  rather  attractive,  I  mean  to  its  satirical 
elevation.  The  English  mind  is  tender  and  temperate: 
it  deprecates  scorn.  But  Hegel,  in  his  scathing  moods,  is 
comparable  to  Heraclitus  ;  he  mocks  every  opinion  with 
an  opinion  which  refutes  it,  and  every  life  with  another 
life  which  kills  it.  He  has  the  wisdom  of  the  serpent ; 
but  unlike  Heraclitus,  whose  fabled  tears  were  warm,  he 
has  the  heart  of  the  serpent  too.  He  despises  finitude 
because  it  is  weak,  as  if  an  infinity  of  pervasive  weakness 
were  strong,  or  a  perpetual  flux  a  victory  for  anything. 
Laughing,  I  can't  help  thinking,  up  his  sleeve,  he  suggests 
that  this  flux  itself  is  a  victory  for  the  spirit,  meaning 
by  spirit  the  law  by  which  he  supposes  that  this  flux  is 
controlled.  But  this  is  sheer  mockery  :  the  only  moral 
victory  is  that  achieved,  under  favourable  conditions, 
by  some  living  spirit,  glad  to  be  expressed  or  to  have  been 
expressed  in  some  perfect  form.  The  finite  only  is  good  : 
the  infinite  tides  are  worth  exactly  what  they  cast  up. 
There  is  a  bitter  idolatry  of  fate  in  this  system  which 
might  seem  splendid  to  a  barbarian  ;  but  how,  I  asked 
myself,  can  it  be  anything  but  horrible  to  a  cultivated 
conscience,  or  to  a  pupil  of  the  Greeks  ? 

In  the  real  England  the  character  I  dreamt  of  exists, 
but  very  much  mixed,  and  overbalanced  by  its  contrary. 
Many  have  the  minds  of  true  gentlemen,  poetically 
detached  from  fortune,  and  seeing  in  temporal  things  only 
their  eternal  beauties.  Yet  if  this  type  of  English  character 
had  been  general,  England  could  never  have  become 
Puritan,  nor  bred  so  many  prosperous  merchants  and 


manufacturers,  nor  sent  such  shoals  of  emigrants  to  the 
colonies  ;  it  would  hardly  have  revelled  as  it  does  in  political 
debates  and  elections,  and  in  societies  for  the  prevention 
and  promotion  of  everything.  In  the  real  England  there 
is  a  strong  if  not  dominant  admixture  of  worldliness. 
How  ponderous  these  Lord  Mayors,  these  pillars  of  chapels, 
these  bishops,  these  politicians,  these  solemn  snobs ! 
How  tight -shut,  how  moralistic,  how  overbearing  these 
intellectuals  with  a  mission  !  All  these  important  people 
are  eaten  up  with  zeal,  and  given  over  to  rearranging  the 
world,  and  yet  without  the  least  idea  of  what  they  would 
change  it  into  in  the  end,  or  to  what  purpose.  Being  so 
much  in  earnest,  they  are  convinced  that  they  must  be 
living  on  the  highest  principles :  what,  then,  is  more 
intelligible  than  that  they  should  welcome  a  philosophy 
which  assures  them  that  such  is  the  case  ?  They  are  well 
pleased  to  hear,  on  the  highest  metaphysical  authority, 
that  the  first  duty  of  a  rich  man  is  to  grow  richer,  and  of 
a  settled  man  to  redouble  in  loyalty  to  his  wife,  his 
community,  his  party,  and  his  business.  The  Protestant 
reformers  told  them  so  formerly  in  biblical  language  ;  the 
Protestant  philosophers  tell  them  so  now  in  the  language 
of  Hegel. 

Besides,  on  its  technical  side,  the  Hegelian  system  has 
a  great  strength,  and  was  most  apposite  in  the  predicament 
in  which,  fifty  years  ago,  philosophy  found  itself  in 
England.  It  supplied  three  illusions  which  idealism  sadly 
needed  if  it  was  to  become  orthodox  and  popular :  the 
illusions  of  profundity,  of  comprehensiveness,  and  of 
finality.  It  was  a  philosophy  of  progress — another  claim 
to  popularity  in  the  nineteenth  century — not  only  progress 
in  the  world  at  large,  but  especially  in  philosophy  itself ; 
and  a  philosophy  of  progress  cannot  ask  us  to  go  back, 
to  cry  peccavi,  and  reconsider  the  false  assumptions  on 
which  we  may  have  been  reasoning  for  two  hundred  or 
for  two  thousand  years.  It  must  accept  these  assumptions 
and  go  on  building  upon  them,  always  a  higher  and  a 
higher  structure.  Now  the  principal  assumption  of  British 
philosophy,  on  which  German  philosophy  itself  rests,  was 
that  nothing  can  be  experienced  except  experience  itself, 
and  nothing  known  except  knowledge.  But  the  Germans 


analysed  far  more  accurately  than  the  British  had  formerly 
done  what  the  notions  of  experience  and  knowledge  contain. 
They  demonstrated  the  unity  of  glance  that  is  essential 
to  it,  and  thus  refuted  (without  of  course  removing)  the 
successive  and  episodic  character  of  experience,  as  the 
honest  but  unwary  empiricists  had  conceived  it.  Hume 
and  Mill  had  remained  naturalists  in  regard  to  the  distribu 
tion  of  those  volatile  ideas  to  which  they  pretended  to 
reduce  the  world.  John  Stuart  Mill  had  a  deeper  and  a 
sweeter  mind  than  his  critics  ;  there  was  something  in 
him  akin  to  Wordsworth  or  to  Matthew  Arnold  ;  but  his 
inherited  principles  were  treacherous,  and  opened  the  door 
to  just  such  a  concentration  of  egotism  as  the  Hegelians 
brought  about.  Moreover,  Hume  and  Mill  had  seemed 
depressing ;  they  perplexed  without  filling  the  mind ; 
they  made  everything  that  is  most  familiar  and  interesting 
seem  strangely  hypothetical ;  whereas  in  Hegel  the  pageant 
of  nature  and  history  appeared  to  be  re-formed  and  to  march 
round  and  round  the  stage  of  the  ego  under  the  strongest 
light  to  the  loudest  music.  There  was  a  sort  of  deafening 
optimism  about  it ;  and  not  only  was  a  convenient  school- 
book  universe  offered  you,  warranted  complete,  but  all 
previous  philosophies  were  succinctly  described,  refuted, 
and  linked  together,  in  a  manner  most  convenient  for 
tutorial  purposes.  Of  course,  the  true  character  and  eternal 
plausibility  of  each  great  system  were  falsified  in  such  a 
survey  ;  each  was  attached  artificially  to  what  happened 
to  precede  and  to  follow  it  in  time,  or  in  the  knowledge  of 
the  historian  ;  as  if  history  were  a  single  chain  of  events, 
and  its  march  dialectical — a  fiction  which  Hegel  did 
not  blush  to  maintain.  An  inner  instability  was  thus 
attributed  to  each  view  which  came  only  from  the  slippery 
mind  of  the  critic  touring  amongst  them,  without  the  least 
intention  of  finding  anywhere  a  home  in  which  to  rest. 
Hegel  was  not  looking  for  the  truth — why  dream  of  truth 
when  you  possess  learning  ? — he  was  writing  an  apology 
for  opinion.  He  enjoyed  understanding  and  imagining 
things  plausibly,  and  had  a  great  intelligence  to  pour 
into  his  constructions  ;  but  this  very  heat  of  thought  fused 
everything  into  the  mould  of  his  method,  and  he  gave  out 
that  he  had  understood  every  system  much  better  than 


those  who  believed  in  it,  and  had  been  carried  by  its  inner 
contradictions  (which  its  adepts  never  saw)  to  the  next 
convenient  position  in  the  development  of  human  fancy, 
and  of  his  own  lectures. 

Abstraction,  such  as  withdrawal  of  the  mind  from 
worldly  affairs,  is  condemned  by  this  philosophy  :  you 
must  glut  the  brain  and  heart  with  everything  that  exists. 
An  even  worse  abstraction,  for  a  philosopher,  is  to  detach 
the  object  from  the  subject,  and  believe  it  to  exist  inde 
pendently.  But  what  is  abstraction  ?  Can  attention  ever 
render  things  more  discrete  than  they  are  in  their  own 
nature  ?  Suppose  I  abstract  a  coin  from  another  man's 
pocket :  it  is  easily  proved  by  Hegel's  logic  that  such  an 
abstraction  is  a  mere  appearance.  Coins  cannot  exist 
as  coins  except  as  pocketed  and  owned  ;  at  the  same 
time  they  imply  an  essential  tendency  to  pass  into  the 
pockets  of  other  men  :  for  a  coin  that  could  not  issue 
from  the  pocket  would  be  a  coin  in  name  only,  and  not  in 
function.  When  it  actually  passes  from  one  man's  pocket 
into  another's,  this  circumstance,  far  from  justifying  us 
in  thinking  the  coin  a  separable  thing,  shows  that  all 
men's  pockets  (when  not  empty  and  therefore,  in  function, 
not  pockets  at  all)  are  intrinsically  related  and,  in  a  higher 
sense,  one  and  the  same  purse.  Therefore,  we  may  con 
clude,  it  was  not  the  sly  transference  of  the  coin  from 
my  neighbour's  pocket  into  mine  that  was  the  wrongful 
abstraction,  but  only  the  false  supposition  that  if  the  coin 
was  his  it  was  not,  by  right  of  eminent  domain,  mine 
also.  A  man,  in  so  far  as  he  is  the  possessor  of  coins,  is 
simply  a  pocket,  and  all  pockets,  in  so  far  as  there  is 
transferable  coin  in  them,  are  one  pocket  together.  In 
this  way  we  avoid  false  abstraction  by  proving  that  every 
thing  is  abstract. 

Nor  is  this  all ;  for  strange  as  it  may  seem,  Hegel  appeals 
also  to  one  type  of  religious  people,  and  seems  to  them  to 
lift  religious  faith  triumphantly  above  all  possible  assaults 
of  fact  or  of  science.  Are  not  all  facts  mere  ideas  ?  And 
must  not  all  ideas  be  bred  in  the  mind  according  to 
its  own  free  principles  of  life  and  effort  ?  Is  not  all  this 
semblance  of  externality  in  things  a  blessed  foil  to  spiritual 
activity  ?  Does  not  this  universal  mutation  pay  loud 


homage  to  eternal  law  ?  Things  go  by  threes  :  that  is 
the  reason  why  they  exist  and  why  they  move,  and  the 
sovereign  good  to  be  attained  by  their  motion.  If  every 
truth  turns  out  to  be  a  lie,  every  lie  is  a  part  of  some  higher 
truth  ;  if  everything  becomes  unreal,  because  it  passes 
into  something  else,  this  other  thing  inherits  its  reality  ; 
and  if  we  look  at  things  as  a  whole  instead  of  seriatim,  and 
spread  out  our  moving  film  into  a  panorama,  we  perceive 
that  everything  has  implied  everything  else  from  the 
beginning,  and  formed  a  part  of  it ;  so  that  only  from  the 
point  of  view  of  ignorance  is  anything  earlier,  or  better, 
or  truer  than  anything  else.  Here,  in  the  All,  we  have 
rest  from  our  labours. 

In  this  way  even  the  slaves  of  the  world  at  last  learn 
to  overcome  the  world  ;  but  it  is  too  late.  This  All,  even 
if  it  were  open  to  human  survey,  would  have  no  value  :  it 
defeats  each  of  its  constituent  lives  and  is  itself  responsive 
to  no  living  desire.  The  indistinction  which  the  vague 
idea  of  it  produces  in  the  mind  may  be  soothing  to  the 
weary ;  but  better  than  mystical  relief  at  the  end  would 
have  been  moral  freedom  in  the  beginning.  That  a  different 
life  will  supersede  mine  is  nothing  against  my  happiness  ; 
that  time  is  swallowing  me  up  is  nothing  against  my 
appropriate  eternity.  How  vain  the  crabbed  hand  of  the 
miser  stringing  his  pearls  and  never  looking  at  them, 
counting  the  drops  that  trickle  into  his  cup  and  never 
emptying  it,  never  feeling  the  intoxication  of  living  now, 
of  telling  the  truth  frankly,  and  of  being  happy  here  !  If 
the  devil  laughs  at  me  because  I  am  mortal,  I  laugh  at 
him  for  imagining  that  death  can  trouble  me,  or  any  other 
free  spirit,  so  long  as  I  live,  or  after  I  am  dead. 


THIS  war  will  kill  the  belief  in  progress,  and  it  wras  high 
time.  Progress  is  often  a  fact :  granted  a  definite  end  to 
be  achieved,  we  may  sometimes  observe  a  continuous 
approach  towards  achieving  it,  as  for  instance  towards 


cutting  off  a  leg  neatly  when  it  has  been  smashed  ;  and 
such  progress  is  to  be  desired  in  all  human  arts.  But  belief 
in  progress,  like  belief  in  fate  or  in  the  number  three,  is 
a  sheer  superstition,  a  mad  notion  that  because  some  idea 
— here  the  idea  of  continuous  change  for  the  better — has 
been  realized  somewhere,  that  idea  was  a  power  which 
realized  itself  there  fatally,  and  which  must  be  secretly 
realizing  itself  everywhere  else,  even  where  the  facts  con 
tradict  it.  Nor  is  belief  in  progress  identical  with  belief 
in  Providence,  or  even  compatible  with  it.  Providence 
would  not  have  begun  wrong  in  order  to  correct  itself  ; 
and  in  works  which  are  essentially  progressive,  like  a  story, 
the  beginning  is  not  worse  than  the  end,  if  the  artist  is 

What  true  progress  is,  and  how  it  is  usually  qualified 
by  all  sorts  of  backsliding  and  by  incompatible  movements 
in  contrary  directions,  is  well  illustrated  by  the  history  of 
philosophy.  There  has  been  progress  in  it ;  if  we  start 
with  the  first  birth  of  intelligence  and  assume  that  the  end 
pursued  is  to  understand  the  world,  the  progress  has  been 
immense.  We  do  not  understand  the  world  yet ;  but  we 
have  formed  many  hypotheses  about  it  corroborated  by 
experience,  we  are  in  possession  of  many  arts  which  involve 
true  knowledge,  and  we  have  collated  and  criticized — 
especially  during  the  last  century — a  great  number  of 
speculations  which,  though  unverified  or  unverifiable,  reveal 
the  problems  and  the  possibilities  in  the  case  ;  so  that  I 
think  a  philosopher  in  our  day  has  no  excuse  for  being  so 
utterly  deceived  in  various  important  matters  as  the  best 
philosophers  formerly  were  through  no  fault  of  theirs, 
because  they  were  misled  by  a  local  tradition,  and  in 
evitably  cut  off  from  the  traditions  of  other  ages  and 
races.  Nevertheless  the  progress  of  philosophy  has  not 
been  of  such  a  sort  that  the  latest  philosophers  are  the 
best :  it  is  quite  the  other  way.  Philosophy  in  this  respect 
is  like  poetry.  There  is  progress  in  that  new  poets  arise 
with  new  gifts,  and  the  fund  of  transmitted  poetry  is  en 
riched  ;  but  Homer,  the  first  poet  amongst  the  Greeks,  was 
also  the  best,  and  so  Dante  in  Italy,  and  Shakespeare  in 
England.  When  a  civilization  and  a  language  take  shape 
they  have  a  wonderful  vitality,  and  their  first-fruits  are 


some  love-child,  some  incomparable  creature  in  whom  the 
whole  genius  of  the  young  race  bursts  forth  uncontaminated 
and  untrammelled.  What  follows  is  more  valuable  in  this 
respect  or  in  that ;  it  renders  fitly  the  partial  feelings  and 
varying  fashions  of  a  long  decadence  ;  but  nothing,  so  long 
as  that  language  and  that  tradition  last,  can  ever  equal 
their  first  exuberance.  Philosophy  is  not  so  tightly  bound 
as  poetry  is  to  language  and  to  local  inspiration,  but  it 
has  largely  shared  the  same  vicissitudes  ;  and  in  each 
school  of  philosophy  only  the  inventors  and  founders  are 
of  any  consequence ;  the  rest  are  hacks.  Moreover,  if  we 
take  each  school  as  a  whole,  and  compare  it  with  the 
others,  I  think  we  may  repeat  the  same  observation  :  the 
first  are  the  best.  Those  following  have  made  very  real 
improvements  ;  they  have  discovered  truths  and  methods 
before  unknown  ;  but  instead  of  adding  these  (as  they 
might  have  done)  to  the  essential  wisdom  of  their  pre 
decessors,  they  have  proceeded  like  poets,  each  a  new-born 
child  in  a  magic  world,  abandoned  to  his  fancy  and  his 
personal  experience.  Bent  on  some  specific  reform  or 
wrapped  up  in  some  favourite  notion,  they  have  denied 
the  obvious  because  other  people  had  pointed  it  out ;  and 
the  later  we  come  down  in  the  history  of  philosophy  the 
less  important  philosophy  becomes,  and  the  less  true  in 
fundamental  matters. 

Suppose  I  arrange  the  works  of  the  essential  philosophers 
— leaving  out  secondary  and  transitional  systems — in  a 
bookcase  of  four  shelves ;  on  the  top  shelf  (out  of  reach, 
since  I  can't  read  the  language)  I  will  place  the  Indians  ; 
on  the  next  the  Greek  naturalists  ;  and  to  remedy  the 
unfortunate  paucity  of  their  remains,  I  will  add  here  those 
free  inquirers  of  the  renaissance,  leading  to  Spinoza,  who 
after  two  thousand  years  picked  up  the  thread  of  scientific 
speculation  ;  and  besides,  all  modern  science  :  so  that  this 
shelf  will  run  over  into  a  whole  library  of  what  is  not 
ordinarily  called  philosophy.  On  the  third  shelf  I  will  put 
Platonism,  including  Aristotle,  the  Fathers,  the  Scholastics, 
and  all  honestly  Christian  theology ;  and  on  the  last, 
modern  or  subjective  philosophy  in  its  entirety.  I  will 
leave  lying  on  the  table,  as  of  doubtful  destination,  the 
works  of  my  contemporaries.  There  is  much  life  in  some 


of  them.  I  like  their  water-colour  sketches  of  self -con 
sciousness,  their  rebellious  egotisms,  their  fervid  reforms  of 
phraseology,  their  peep-holes  through  which  some  very 
small  part  of  things  may  be  seen  very  clearly  :  they  have 
lively  wits,  but  they  seem  to  me  like  children  playing 
blind-man's-buff ;  they  are  keenly  excited  at  not  knowing 
where  they  are.  They  are  really  here,  in  the  common 
natural  world,  where  there  is  nothing  in  particular  to 
threaten  or  to  allure  them  ;  and  they  have  only  to  remove 
their  philosophical  bandages  in  order  to  perceive  it. 

What  sort  of  a  world  this  is — I  will  not  say  in  itself,  but 
in  respect  to  us — can  be  perceived  almost  at  once  by  any 
candid  spirit,  and  the  Indians  readily  perceived  it.  They 
saw  that  substance  is  infinite,  out  of  scale  with  our  sensuous 
images  and  (except  in  the  little  vortex  that  makes  us  up) 
out  of  sympathy  with  our  endeavours  ;  and  that  spirit  in 
us  nevertheless  can  hold  its  own,  because  salvation  lies  in 
finding  joy  in  the  truth,  not  in  rendering  fortune  propitious, 
by  some  miracle,  to  our  animal  interests.  The  spirit  is  at 
home  in  the  infinite,  and  morally  independent  of  all  the 
accidents  of  existence  :  nothing  that  nature  can  produce 
outruns  its  potential  scope,  its  desire  to  know  the  truth  ; 
and  its  disinterestedness  renders  it  free,  free  especially  from 
any  concern  about  its  own  existence.  It  does  not  deem  it 
the  part  of  piety  to  deny  the  fugitive,  impotent,  and  fantastic 
nature  of  human  life.  It  knows  that  the  thoughts  of  man 
and  his  works,  however  great  or  delightful  when  measured 
by  the  human  scale,  are  but  the  faintest  shimmer  on  the 
surface  of  being.  On  the  ruin  of  humanistic  illusions  (such 
as  make  up  the  religious  philosophy  of  the  West)  it  knows 
how  to  establish  a  tender  morality  and  a  sublime  religion. 

Indian  wisdom,  intent  on  the  infinity  and  unity  of  sub 
stance  and  on  the  vanity  of  human  life,  neglected  two 
inquiries  which  are  nevertheless  of  the  greatest  interest  to 
the  spirit,  so  long  as  this  vain  life  endures.  The  Indians 
did  not  study  the  movement  and  mechanism  of  nature  : 
they  had  no  science.  Their  poets,  in  a  sort  of  spectacular 
physics,  were  content  to  paint  vividly  the  images  of  sense, 
conscious  of  their  fugitive  charm,  and  of  their  monstrous 
and  delirious  diversity.  They  also  neglected  the  art  of 
rational  conduct  in  this  world ;  the  refinements  of  their 


moral  discipline  were  all  mystical ;  they  were  determined 
by  watching  the  movement  of  inner  experience,  and  allowing 
the  fancy  to  distinguish  its  objects  and  its  stages.  They 
thought  the  spirit  could  liberate  itself  by  thinking,  as  by 
thinking  it  seemed  to  have  entangled  itself  in  this  mesh  of 
dreams.  But  how  could  the  spirit,  if  it  had  been  free 
originally,  ever  have  attached  its  fortunes  to  any  lump  of 
clay  ?  Why  should  it  be  the  sport  of  time  and  change  and 
the  vicissitudes  of  affairs  ?  From  the  point  of  view  of 
the  spirit  (which  is  that  of  the  Indians)  this  question  is 
absolutely  insoluble  ;  a  fact  which  drives  them  to  say  that 
this  entanglement  is  not  "  real,"  but  only  an  illusion  of 
being  entangled.  Certainly  substance  is  not  entangled,  but 
persists  and  moves  according  to  its  nature  ;  and  if  what 
exists  besides  substance — its  aspects  and  the  spirit  in  us 
that  notes  them — is  not  "  real  "  because  not  substantial, 
then  the  unreal  has  the  privilege,  as  Democritus  pointed  out,' 
of  existing  as  well  as  the  real,  and  more  obviously.  But 
this  subterfuge,  of  denying  that  appearance  exists,  because 
its  existence  is  only  the  seeming  of  its  objects,  was  inevitable 
in  the  Indian  system,  and  dramatically  right.  The  spirit, 
left  to  its  own  fond  logic,  remains  perfectly  ignorant  of  its 
natural  ancestry  and  cannot  imagine  why  it  finds  itself 
caught  in  the  vice  of  existence,  and  hanging  like  Prometheus 
on  a  crag  of  Caucasus,  or  like  Christ  on  the  cross.  The 
myth  of  reincarnation,  whilst  it  meets  certain  moral  demands, 
leaves  the  problem  essentially  untouched.  Why  should 
spirit  have  fallen  in  the  first  instance,  or  made  any  beginning 
in  sin  and  illusion  ? 

It  would  have  been  better,  for  the  moral  and  religious 
purposes  of  these  sages,  to  have  observed  and  respected  the 
prose  facts,  and  admitted  that  each  little  spirit  falls  for  the 
first  time  when  the  body  is  generated  which  it  is  to  dwell 
in.  It  never,  in  fact,  existed  before  ;  it  is  the  spirit  of  that 
body.  Its  transcendental  prerogatives  and  its  impersonal 
aims  are  by  no  means  inconsistent  with  that  humble  fact : 
they  seem  inconsistent  only  to  those  who  are  ignorant  of 
the  life  and  fertility  of  nature,  which  breeds  spirit  as  naturally 
as  the  lark  sings.  Aspiration  to  liberate  spirit  from  absorp 
tion  in  finite  existence  is  in  danger  of  missing  its  way  if  it 
is  not  enlightened  by  a  true  theory  of  existence  and  of 


spirit ;  for  it  is  utterly  impossible  to  free  the  spirit  materially, 
since  it  is  the  voice  of  matter,  but  by  a  proper  hygiene  it 
can  be  freed  ideally,  so  that  it  ceases  to  be  troubled  by  its 
sluggish  instrument,  or  conscious  of  it.  In  these  matters 
the  Indians  were  the  sport  of  the  wildest  fancy.  They 
mistook  their  early  poetry  for  a  metaphysical  revelation, 
and  their  philosophy  was  condemned  to  turn  in  the  most 
dreary  treadmill  of  commentaries  and  homilies,  without 
one  ray  of  criticism,  or  any  revision  of  first  principles. 
Nevertheless,  all  their  mythology  and  scholasticism  did  not 
invalidate  (as  they  did  not  in  the  Catholic  church  afterwards) 
the  initial  spiritual  insight  on  which  their  system  rested. 
The  spirit,  viewed  from  within,  is  omnipresent  and  timeless, 
and  must  be  spoken  of  as  falling,  or  coming  down,  or  entering 
(as  Aristotle  puts  it)  through  the  house-door.  Spirit  calls 
itself  a  stranger,  because  it  finds  the  world  strange  ;  and  it 
finds  the  world  strange  because,  being  the  spirit  of  a  very 
high-strung  and  perilously  organized  animal,  it  is  sensitive 
to  many  influences  not  harmonious  with  its  own  impulses, 
and  has  to  beg  its  daily  bread.  Yet  it  is  rich  in  resource  ; 
and  it  gives  itself  out  for  a  traveller  and  tells  marvellous 
lies  about  its  supposed  native  land,  where  it  was  a  prince 
and  an  omnipotent  poet.  These  boasts  serve  the  spirit  as 
a  declaration  of  independence,  and  a  claim  to  immense 
superiority  above  the  world.  This  independence,  however, 
is  really  only  the  independence  of  ignorance,  that  must 
think  and  act  at  random  ;  and  the  spirit  would  add  sanity 
to  its  spirituality  if  it  recognized  the  natural,  precarious, 
and  exquisite  life  of  which  it  is  the  spirit. 

Sanity,  thy  name  is  Greece.  The  Greek  naturalists 
saw  (what  it  needs  only  sanity  to  see)  that  the  infinite 
substance  of  things  was  instinct  with  a  perpetual  motion 
and  rhythmic  order  which  were  its  life,  and  that  the  spirit 
of  man  was  a  spark  from  that  universal  fire.  They  made 
a  magnificent  beginning  in  understanding  what  the  order 
of  nature  is,  and  what  is  the  relation  of  its  substance  to  its 
spirit.  They  were  much  nearer  in  their  outlook  and  their 
wisdom  to  the  Indians  than  we  are  apt  to  imagine.  The 
Indians  meant  to  be  naturalists  too  ;  all  serious  philo 
sophers  must  somehow  make  a  naturalism  of  their  chosen 
elements ;  only  the  Indians  were  carried  away  by  an 


untutored  imagination.  The  Greeks,  for  their  part,  also 
meant  to  be  discerners  of  substance  like  the  Indians,  and 
sharers  in  the  divine  life.  The  object  which  they  believed 
in  and  studied  was  precisely  the  same  as  that  which  the 
Indians  felt  to  be  breathing  deeply  around  and  within 
them  :  it  was  the  infinite  substance  and  life  of  things ; 
all  things  not  as  they  appear  but  as  they  truly  are.  This 
is  the  object  which  animals  envisage  in  their  perceptions 
from  the  beginning.  The  sciences,  and  all  honest  specula 
tion,  only  substitute  more  refined  ideas  for  the  images  of 
sense,  to  be  descriptions  of  the  same  objects  which  the 
images  of  sense  reveal.  The  notion  that  the  object  of 
sense  is  the  very  image  created  in  sensation,  or  is  an  idea 
constructed  afterwards  by  the  intellect,  is  an  aberration 
of  confused  psychologists  ;  the  intellectual  construction, 
like  the  sensuous  image,  is  and  is  meant  to  be  only  a  symbol 
for  the  substance,  whatever  it^nay  be,  which  confronts 
the  living  being  when  he  eats  or  looks  or  frames  a 
scientific  hypothesis.  Natural  things,  in  their  undiscovered 
inner  texture,  are  the  only  things-in- themselves,  and  the 
object  of  every  practical  perception  is  the  thing-in-itself, 
whatever  its  nature  may  happen  to  be. 

When  we  enlarge  our  thoughts,  and  take  in  the  world, 
as  it  were,  at  a  glance,  the  object  does  not  become  more 
metaphysical  than  when  we  take  common  things  singly. 
The  Greeks,  too,  looked  up  into  the  heavens  and  cried, 
"  The  All  is  one."  It  was  just  what  the  Indians  had  said, 
shutting  their  eyes  and  di  inking  in  an  infinite  draught  of 
nothing  ;  but  the  outward  glance,  the  docility  to  fact, 
in  the  Greeks  made  a  new  thought  of  it,  and  a  true  one. 
What  was  now  discovered  was  the  system  of  nature ; 
the  spirit  was  naturalized  in  its  source ;  it  was  set  like  a 
young  plant  in  its  appropriate  flowei-pot,  where  it  might 
wax  and  bloom.  It  did  grow  there,  but  not  to  its  primeval 
size.  These  knowing  Greeks  were  not  saints  and  hermits, 
like  the  venerable  Indians ;  they  were  merchants,  sniffing 
travellers,  curiosity-hunters,  who  turned  pebbles  over  and 
culled  herbs,  breeders  of  animals,  or  wandering  sooth 
sayers  with  a  monkey  on  their  shoulder ;  and  in  naturalizing 
the  spirit  they  stultified  it.  Why  should  knowledge  of  the 
world  make  people  worldly  ?  It  ought  to  do  the  exact 


opposite.  The  Indians  had,  in  their  way,  a  most  profound 
and  mature  knowledge  of  the  world  ;  they  knew  perfectly 
what  it  could  yield  to  the  spirit,  and  what  it  was  worth. 
But  lost  in  their  inner  experience  they  invented  for  nature 
what  structure  they  chose,  fantastically  attenuating  and 
inflating  it  as  in  a  dream.  Apparently  there  is  not  energy 
jenough  in  the  human  intellect  to  look  both  ways  at  once, 
;and  to  study  the  world  scientifically  whilst  living  in  it 

The  Greeks  in  their  sanity  discovered  not  only  the 
natural  world  but  the  art  of  living  well  in  it.  Besides 
physics  they  founded  ethics  and  politics.  Bat  here  again 
progress  was  prevented  by  the  rejection  or  perversion  of 
the  greater  thing  in  the  interests  of  the  lesser.  Specu- 
latively  at  least  some  just  conception  of  the  world  we  live 
in,  and  of  our  place  and  destiny  there,  is  more  important 
than  the  choice  of  a  definite  way  of  life  ;  for  animals  and 
man  have,  quite  legitimately,  each  his  own  habits  and 
pleasures,  but  they  all  crawl  under  the  same  heaven,  and 
if  they  think  of  it  at  all,  they  should  not  blaspheme  against 
it.  The  Greek  naturalists  had  conceived  nature  rightly  ; 
and  their  sentiments  and  maxims,  whilst  very  properly 
diverse,  had  all  of  them  a  certain  noble  frankness  in  the 
presence  of  the  infinite  world,  of  which  they  begged  no 
favours.  It  was  precisely  these  personal  sentiments  and 
maxims,  and  policy  in  the  government  of  cities,  that 
interested  the  Greeks  most ;  and  the  Sophists  and  Socrates 
affected  to  care  nothing  about  natural  science,  unless  it 
could  make  their  pot  boil.  This  utilitarianism  was 
humorous  in  Socrates,  and  in  some  of  the  Sophists  unprin 
cipled  ;  but  the  habit  of  treating  opinions  about  nature 
as  rhetorical  themes,  or  as  more  or  less  edifying  myths, 
had  disastrous  consequences  for  philosophy.  It  created 
metaphysics.  Metaphysics  is  not  merely  speculative 
physics,  in  which  natural  science  is  extended  imagina 
tively  in  congruous  ways,  anticipating  what  might  some 
day  be  discovered.  This  is  what  the  naturalists  had  done, 
and  their  theories  were  simply  physical  or  cosmological. 
But  after  Socrates  a  theory  constructed  by  reasoning,  in 
terms  of  logic,  ethics,  and  a  sort  of  poetic  propriety,  was 
put  in  the  place  of  physics  ;  the  economy  of  the  human 


mind  was  projected  into  the  universe  ;  and  nature,  in  the 
works  of  the  metaphysicians,  held  the  mirror  up  to  man. 
Human  nature  and  the  human  mind,  which  were  thus  made 
to  rule  the  world,  are  in  reality  a  very  small  incident  in 
it ;  they  are  proper  to  one  animal ;  they  are  things  of 
yesterday  and  perhaps  not  of  to-morrow.  This  is  nothing 
against  them  in  their  place,  as  it  is  nothing  against  the 
daisy  that  it  is  humble,  nor  against  the  spray  of  the  sea 
that  its  flight  is  violent  and  brief.  The  Platonic,  British, 
and  German  schools  of  philosophy  advance  our  knowledge 
of  ourselves  ;  what  a  pity  that  they  were  not  content  to 
cultivate  their  own  gardens,  where  so  many  moral  fruits 
and  psychological  flowers  might  be  made  to  grow,  but  have 
insisted  that  their  domestic  vegetables  are  the  signs  of  the 
zodiac,  and  that  the  universe  was  made  to  illustrate  their 
horticulture  ! 

Taken  for  what  they  really  are,  these  humanistic 
philosophies  express  different  sides  of  human  nature. 
The  best  (and  earliest)  is  the  Platonic,  because  the  side  of 
human  nature  which  it  expresses  and  fosters  is  the  spiritual 
side.  Platonic  metaphysics  projects  into  the  universe  the 
moral  progress  of  the  soul.  It  is  like  a  mountain  lake, 
in  which  the  aspirations  and  passions  of  a  civilized  mind 
are  reflected  upside  down  ;  and  a  certain  tremor  and 
intensity  is  added  to  them  in  that  narrower  frame,  which 
they  would  hardly  have  in  the  upper  air.  This  system 
renders  the  life  of  the  soul  more  unified  and  more  beautiful 
than  it  would  otherwise  be.  Everything  becomes  magical, 
and  a  sort  of  perpetual  miracle  of  grace  ;  the  forms  which 
things  wear  to  the  human  mind  are  deputed  to  be  their 
substance  ;  the  uses  of  life  become  its  protecting  gods ; 
the  categories  of  logic  and  of  morals  become  celestial 
spheres  enclosing  the  earth.  A  monstrous  dream,  if  you 
take  it  for  a  description  of  nature  ;  but  a  suitable  allegory 
by  which  to  illustrate  the  progress  of  the  inner  life  :  because 
those  stages,  or  something  like  them,  are  really  the  stages 
of  moral  progress  for  the  soul. 

The  British  and  German  philosophies  belong  to  an 
analytic  phase  of  reflection,  without  spiritual  discipline, 
and  their  value  is  merely  psychological.  Their  subject 
matter  is  human  knowledge  ;  and  the  titles  of  many  of  the 


chief  works  of  this  school  confess  that  this  is  their  only 
theme.  Not  moral  life,  much  less  the  natural  world,  but 
simply  the  articulation  of  knowledge  occupies  them  ;  and 
yet,  by  the  hocus-pocus  of  metaphysics,  they  substitute 
this  human  experience  for  the  whole  universe  in  which  it 
arises.  The  universe  is  to  be  nothing  but  a  flux  of  percep 
tions,  or  a  will  positing  an  object,  or  a  tendency  to  feign 
that  there  is  a  world.  It  would  ill  become  me,  a  pupil  of 
this  philosophy,  to  deny  its  profundity.  These  are  the 
heart-searchings  of  "  a  creature  moving  about  in  worlds 
not  realized."  It  is  a  wonderful  thing  to  spin  out  in 
soliloquy,  out  of  some  unfathomed  creative  instinct,  the 
various  phases  of  one's  faith  and  sensibility,  making  an 
inventory  of  one's  intellectual  possessions,  with  some 
notes  on  their  presumable  or  reported  history.  I  love  the 
lore  of  the  moral  antiquary ;  I  love  rummaging  in  the 
psychological  curiosity  shop.  The  charm  of  modern  life 
is  ambiguous  ;  it  lies  in  self -consciousness.  Egotism  has 
its  tender  developments ;  there  is  a  sort  of  engaging  purity 
in  its  perplexities  and  faithful  labours.  The  German  soul 
has  a  great  volume,  and  Hamlet  is  heroic  even  in  his 
impotence.  When  in  this  little  glow-worm  which  we  call 
man  there  is  so  much  going  on,  what  must  not  all  nature 
contain  in  its  immensity  ?  Yet  all  these  advances  in 
analysis  and  in  psychological  self-knowledge,  far  from 
enriching  the  modern  philosopher  and  giving  him  fresh 
hints  for  the  interpretation  of  the  great  world,  have  been 
neutralized,  under  the  guise  of  scepticism,  by  a  total 
intellectual  cramp  or  by  a  colossal  folly.  This  thoughtful 
dog  has  dropped  the  substance  he  held  in  his  mouth,  to 
snatch  at  the  reflection  of  it  which  his  own  mind  gave  him. 
It  is  wonderful  with  what  a  light  heart,  with  what  self- 
satisfaction  and  even  boasts,  the  youngest  children  of  the 
philosophical  family  jettison  all  their  heirlooms.  Fichte 
and  Nietzsche,  in  their  fervid  arrogance,  could  hardly 
outdo  the  mental  impoverishment  of  Berkeley  and  Hume 
in  their  levity  :  it  had  really  been  a  sight  for  the  gods  to 
see  one  of  these  undergraduates  driving  matter  out  of  the 
universe,  whilst  the  other  drove  out  spirit. 



ENGLISH  poetry  and  fiction  have  expressed  the  inner  man 
far  better  than  British  philosophy  has  defined  him.  He  is 
a  hidden  spring,  a  source  of  bubbling  half-thoughts  and 
characteristic  actions,  and  the  philosophers  have  called 
him  a  series  of  ideas.  Ideas  are  rather  his  weak  point. 
Idealism,  on  principle,  leaves  no  room  for  anything  latent ; 
but  in  a  living  being,  especially  in  a  nice  Englishman, 
what  is  latent  is  the  chief  thing.  The  vital  organs  are 
under  the  skin  and  far  more  complicated,  I  suspect,  than 
anatomy  would  lead  us  to  imagine  :  the  case  is  somewhat 
as  if  some  giant  in  remote  space  should  examine  the  surface 
of  our  earth  with  a  glass,  measuring  its  motion  round  the 
sun  and  perhaps  round  its  own  axis,  but  regarding  as 
perfectly  inexplicable  and  unmeaning  the  coursing  of 
ships,  the  march  of  armies  and  migrations,  the  change  of 
forests  into  cornfields,  and  of  cornfields  into  deserts.  So, 
perhaps,  far  beyond  the  reach  of  any  microscope,  the 
politic  congregation  of  atoms  within  us  is  busy  in  its 
curiously  organic  and  curiously  aimless  way  :  sustaining 
on  the  whole,  until  disease  or  death  supervenes,  the  inter 
national  peace  and  commerce  of  the  animal  body.  How 
much  wireless  telegraphy,  how  many  alliances,  and  how 
many  diplomatic  compromises  there  must  be  in  our  system 
for  the  human  body  to  live  at  all !  But  psychological 
philosophers,  like  children,  think  the  whole  economy  of  life 
the  simplest  thing  in  the  world  :  experience,  they  say,  just 
comes  as  it  does  come  ;  as  the  boy,  asked  where  he  would 
get  the  money  necessary  for  all  the  fine  things  he  said  he 
would  do  when  he  was  a  man,  replied,  full  of  empirical 
wisdom,  "  Out  of  my  pocket,  like  papa  !  "  Experience 
is  the  paternal  pocket  of  these  philosophers ;  they  have 
not  discovered  the  financial  system,  the  life  of  the  body, 
which  fills  that  minute  and  precarious  reservoir. 

It  is  not  only  a  stronger  glass  that  the  remote  giant 
would  need  to  disclose  to  him  the  life  of  the  earth  ;  he 
would  need  imagination  akin  to  the  human,  which  such  a 
giant  would  probably  not  possess.  For  suppose  anatomy 


had  done  its  best  or  its  worst,  and  had  completely  mapped 
the  machinery  of  the  human  automaton  ;  and  suppose 
at  the  same  time  the  modern  dream-readers  and  diviners 
had  unearthed  all  a  man's  infant  concupiscences  and 
secret  thoughts  :  there  would  still  be  something  essential 
undiscovered.  I  do  not  mean  that  behind  the  whole 
physical  machinery  there  would  be  another  material 
agency,  another  force  or  set  of  events ;  nor  that  besides 
the  totality  of  mental  discourse,  remembered  or  un- 
remembered,  there  would  be  more  thinking  elsewhere : 
the  hypothesis  is  that  all  that  exists  in  these  spheres  has 
been  surveyed,  and  assigned  to  its  place  in  the  evolving 
system.  What  has  been  so  far  ignored  is  something  on 
another  plane  of  being  altogether,  which  this  automatic 
life  and  this  mental  discourse  involve,  but  do  not 
contain.  It  is  the  principle  of  both  and  of  their  relation  ; 
the  system  of  repetitions,  correspondences,  developments, 
and  ideal  unities  created  by  this  march  of  human 
life  in  double  column.  For  instance,  men  are  mortal ; 
they  are  born ;  they  are  begotten  by  sexual  fertilization ; 
they  have  a  childhood  ;  their  passions  and  thoughts  flow 
in  a  certain  general  order  ;  and  there  are  units  in  the  human 
world  called  persons,  nations,  interests,  purposes.  I  do 
not  refer  to  the  ideas  of  these  things  in  the  mental  discourse 
of  this  or  that  man  ;  but  to  the  groups  or  cycles  of  facts 
designated  by  these  ideas.  To  perceive  these  groups  or 
cycles  requires  a  certain  type  of  intelligence  :  but  intelli 
gence  does  not  invent  them  without  cause  ;  it  finds  the 
order  which  it  designates  by  some  word,  some  metaphor, 
or  some  image. 

That  this  order  of  human  life  is  something  natural,  and 
not  a  fiction  of  discourse,  appears  in  many  ways.  The 
relation  of  discourse  itself  to  physical  life  is  one  proof  of  it. 
Mental  discourse  is  the  inner  luminosity  or  speech  that 
accompanies  dramatic  crises  in  the  fortunes  of  the  body  ; 
it  is  not  self-generated  ;  it  is  always  the  expression  of 
another  event,  then  occurring  in  the  body,  as  is  a  cry  of 
pain ;  and  it  is  usually,  at  the  same  time,  a  report  of  still 
another  event  that  has  already  occurred  beyond  the  body, 
as  is  a  memory  or  a  perception.  Feeling  and  thought  are 
perpetually  interrupted  and  perpetually  renewed  by  some- 


thing  not  themselves.  Their  march,  logic,  and  sanity,  no 
less  than  their  existence,  translate  into  mental  language 
an  order  proper  to  material  events.  A  sense  of  comfort 
is  the  symptom  of  a  good  digestion  ;  pain  expresses  a 
lively  discord  in  the  nervous  system,  and  pleasure  a  lively 
harmony.  When  we  can  scarcely  live,  because  something 
is  stifling  us,  we  hate  that  thing ;  and  when  we  breathe 
more  freely  because  something  approaches,  we  love  it. 
Spirit  everywhere  expresses  the  life  of  nature,  and  echoes 
its  endeavours ;  but  the  animal  life  which  prompts  these 
feelings  is  itself  not  arbitrary  :  it  passes  through  a  cycle 
of  changes  which  are  pre-ordained.  This  predetermined, 
specific  direction  of  animal  life  is  the  key  to  everything 
moral ;  without  it  no  external  chcumstance  could  be 
favourable  or  unfavourable  to  us ;  and  spirit  within  us 
would  have  no  reason  to  welcome,  to  deplore,  or  to  notice 
anything.  What  an  anomaly  it  would  seem  to  a  free 
spirit  (if  there  could  be  such  a  thing)  that  it  should  care 
particularly  for  what  happens  in  the  body  of  some  animal, 
or  that  it  should  see  one  set  of  facts  rather  than  another, 
and  this  in  so  partial  and  violent  a  perspective  !  But  spirit 
does,  and  must,  do  this  ;  and  it  is  an  absurd  and  satanic 
presumption  on  its  part  to  profess  that  it  could  exist,  or 
be  a  spirit  at  all,  if  it  were  not  the  spirit  of  some  body, 
the  voice  of  some  animal  heart.  To  have  a  station  in 
matter,  and  to  have  interests  in  the  material  world,  are 
essential  to  spirit,  because  spirit  is  life  become  articulate, 
experience  focussed  in  thought  and  dominated  ideally  ;  but 
experience  and  life  are  inconceivable  unless  an  organism 
with  specific  capacities  and  needs  finds  itself  in  an  environ 
ment  that  stimulates  it  variously  and  offers  it  a  conditioned 

Science  as  yet  has  no  answer  to  this  most  important 
of  all  questions,  if  we  wish  to  understand  human  nature  : 
namely,  How  is  the  body,  and  how  are  its  senses  and 
passions,  determined  to  develop  as  they  do  ?  We  may 
reply :  Because  God  wills  it  so  ;  or  Because  such  is  the 
character  of  the  human  species ;  or  Because  mechanical 
causes  necessitate  it.  These  answers  do  not  increase  our 
scientific  understanding  in  the  least ;  nevertheless  they 
are  not  wholly  vain  :  for  the  first  tells  us  that  we  must  be 


satisfied  with  ignorance  ;  the  second  that  we  must  be 
satisfied  with  the  facts  ;  and  the  third,  which  is  the  most 
significant,  that  these  facts  are  analogous  in  every  province 
of  nature.  But  how  close  are  these  analogies  ?  Mechan 
ism  is  one  habit  of  matter,  and  life  is  another  habit  of 
matter ;  the  first  we  can  measure  mathematically  and 
forecast  accurately,  the  second  we  can  only  express  in 
moral  terms,  and  anticipate  vaguely ;  but  that  the 
mechanical  habit  runs  through  the  vital  habit,  and  con 
ditions  it,  is  made  obvious  by  the  dependence  of  life  on 
food,  on  time,  on  temperature,  by  its  routine  in  health 
and  by  its  diseases,  by  its  end,  and  above  all  by  its  origin  ; 
for  it  is  a  habit  of  matter  continuous  with  other  inorganic 
habits,  and  (if  evolution  is  true)  arising  out  of  them.  In 
any  case,  life  comes  from  a  seed  in  which  it  lies  apparently 
dormant  and  arrested,  and  from  which  it  is  elicited  by 
purely  mechanical  agencies.  On  the  other  hand,  the  seed 
reacts  on  those  agencies  in  a  manner  as  yet  inexplicable  by 
what  we  know  of  its  structure ;  and  its  development 
closely  repeats  (though  perhaps  with  some  spontaneous 
variation)  the  phases  proper  to  the  species. 

To  this  mysterious  but  evident  predetermination  of 
normal  life  by  the  seed  the  ancients  gave  the  name  of 
soul ;  but  to  us  the  word  soul  suggests  a  thinking  spirit, 
or  even  a  disembodied  one.  It  is  totally  incredible  that  a 
thinking  spirit  should  exist  in  the  seed,  and  should  plan 
and  carry  out  (by  what  instruments  ?)  the  organization  of 
the  body  ;  and  if  so  wise  and  powerful  and  independent 
a  spirit  lay  in  us  from  the  beginning,  or  rather  long  before 
our  birth,  how  superfluous  a  labour  to  beget  us  at  all,  and 
how  unkind  of  it  to  dangle  after  it,  in  addition  to  its  own 
intelligence,  these  poor  blundering  and  troubled  thoughts 
of  which  alone  we  are  aware  !  Evidently  the  governing 
principle  in  seeds  is  no  soul  in  this  modern  sense,  no  thinking 
moral  being  ;  it  is  a  mysterious  habit  in  matter.  Whether 
this  total  habit  is  reducible  to  minor  habits  of  matter, 
prevalent  in  the  world  at  large,  is  the  question  debated 
between  mechanical  and  vitalist  psychologists  ;  but  it  is 
a  stupid  controversy.  The  smallest  unit  of  mechanism  is 
an  event  as  vital,  as  groundless,  and  as  creative  as  it  is 
possible  for  an  event  to  be  ;  it  summons  fresh  essences  into 


existence,  which  the  character  of  the  essences  previously 
embodied  in  existence  by  no  means  implied  dialectically. 
On  the  other  hand,  the  romantic  adventure  of  life,  if  it  is 
not  a  series  of  miracles  and  catastrophes  observed  ex  post 
facto,  must  be  a  resultant  of  simpler  habits  struggling  or 
conspiring  together.  However  minute,  therefore,  or  how 
ever  comprehensive  the  units  by  which  natural  processes 
are  described,  they  are  equally  vital  and  equally  mechanical, 
equally  free  and  (for  an  observer  with  a  sufficient  range  of 
vision)  equally  predictable.  On  the  human  scale  of  ob 
servation  it  is  the  larger  habits  of  living  beings  that  are 
most  easily  observed  ;  and  the  principle  of  these  habits, 
transmitted  by  a  seed,  I  call  the  Psyche  :  it  is  either  a 
complex  of  more  minute  habits  of  matter,  or  a  mastering 
rhythm  imposed  upon  them  by  the  habit  of  the  species. 
Many  Greek  philosophers  taught  that  the  Psyche  was 
material ;  and  even  Plato,  although  of  course  his  Psyche 
might  eventually  take  to  thinking,  regarded  it  as  primarily 
a  principle  of  motion,  growth,  and  unconscious  government ; 
so  that  the  associations  of  the  word  Psyche  are  not  re 
pugnant,  as  are  those  of  the  word  soul,  to  the  meaning  I 
wish  to  give  to  it  :  that  habit  in  matter  which  forms  the 
human  body  and  the  human  mind.1 

There  is,  then,  in  every  man  a  Psyche,  or  inherited 
nucleus  of  life,  which  from  its  dormant  seminal  condition 

1  I  beg  the  learned  to  notice  that  the  Psyche,  as  I  use  the  term, 
is  not  a  material  atom  but  a  material  system,  stretching  over  both 
time  and  space  ;  it  is  not  a  monad  ;  it  has  not  the  unity  proper 
to  consciousness ;  nor  is  it  a  mass  of  "  subconscious,"  mental 
discourse.  The  Psyche  may  be  called  a  substance  in  respect  to 
mental  and  moral  phenomena  which  (I  think)  are  based  on  modes 
or  processes  in  matter,  not  on  any  material  particle  taken  singly  ; 
but  the  Psyche  is  not  a  substance  absolutely,  since  its  own  sub 
stance  is  matter  in  a  certain  arrangement — in  other  words,  body. 
Matter  may  be  called  mind-stuff  or  psychic  substance  inasmuch  as 
it  can  become  on  occasion  the  substance  of  a  Psyche,  and  through 
the  Psyche  the  basis  of  mind  ;  but  of  course  not  in  the  sense  that 
matter  may  be  an  aggregate  of  thinking  spirits.  Mental  events 
may  be  called  psychic  when  we  consider  their  origin  rather  than 
their  essence,  as  certain  pleasures  are  called  material,  although 
pleasures,  in  being,  are  all  equally  spiritual.  "  Psychic  phenomena  " 
are  crudely  material,  and  "  psychical  research  "  has  for  its  object, 
not  spirits  in  another  world,  but  the  habits  of  matter  that  produce 


expands  and  awakes  anew  in  each  generation,  becoming 
the  person  recognized  in  history,  law,  and  morals.  A 
man's  body  is  a  sort  of  husk  of  which  his  Psyche  (itself 
material)  is  the  kernel ;  and  it  is  out  of  the  predispositions 
of  this  living  seed,  played  upon  by  circumstances,  that  his 
character  and  his  mind  are  formed.  The  Psyche's  first 
care  is  to  surround  itself  with  outer  organs,  like  a  spider 
with  its  web  ;  only  these  organs  remain  subject  to  her 
central  control,  and  are  the  medium  by  which  she  acts 
upon  outer  things,  and  receives,  in  her  patient  labour,  the 
solicitations  and  rebuffs  of  fortune.  The  Psyche,  being 
essentially  a  way  of  living,  a  sort  of  animated  code  of 
hygiene  and  morals,  is  a  very  selective  principle  :  she  is 
perpetually  distinguishing — in  action,  if  not  in  words — 
between  good  and  bad,  right  and  wrong.  Choice  is  the 
breath  of  her  nostrils.  All  the  senses,  instincts,  and  passions 
are  her  scouts.  The  further  she  extends  her  influence  the 
more  she  feels  how  dependent  she  is  on  external  things, 
and  the  more  feverishly  she  tries  to  modify  them,  so  as 
to  render  them  more  harmonious  with  her  own  impulses. 

At  first,  when  she  was  only  a  vegetative  Psyche,  she 
waited  in  a  comparatively  peaceful  mystical  torpor  for  the 
rain  or  the  sunshine  to  foster  her,  or  for  the  cruel  winter 
or  barbarous  scythe  to  cut  her  down  ;  and  she  never  would 
have  survived  at  all  if  breeding  had  not  been  her  chief 
preoccupation  ;  but  she  distributed  herself  so  multitudin- 
ously  and  so  fast  amongst  her  children,  that  she  has  sur 
vived  to  this  day.  Later,  she  found  a  new  means  of  safety 
and  profit  in  locomotion  ;  and  it  was  then  that  she  began 
to  perceive  distinct  objects,  to  think,  and  to  plan  her 
actions — accomplishments  by  no  means  native  to  her.  Like 
the  Chinese,  she  is  just  as  busy  by  night  as  by  day.  Long 
before  sunrise  she  is  at  work  in  her  subterranean  kitchen 
over  her  pots  of  stewing  herbs,  her  looms,  and  her  spindles  ; 
and  with  the  first  dawn,  when  the  first  ray  of  intuition 
falls  through  some  aperture  into  those  dusky  spaces,  what 
does  it  light  up  ?  The  secret  springs  of  her  life  ?  The 
aims  she  is  so  faithfully  but  blindly  pursuing  ?  Far  from 
it.  Intuition,  floods  of  intuition,  have  been  playing  for 
ages  upon  human  life  :  poets,  painters,  men  of  prayer, 
scrupulous  naturalists  innumerable,  have  been  intent  on 


their  several  visions  ;  yet  of  the  origin  and  of  the  end  of 
life  we  know  as  little  as  ever.  And  the  reason  is  this  : 
that  intuition  is  not  a  material  organ  of  the  Psyche,  like 
a  hand  or  an  antenna ;  it  is  a  miraculous  child,  far  more 
alive  than  herself,  whose  only  instinct  is  play,  laughter, 
and  brooding  meditation.  This  strange  child — who  could 
have  been  his  father  ? — is  a  poet ;  absolutely  useless  and 
incomprehensible  to  his  poor  mother,  and  only  a  new 
burden  on  her  shoulders,  because  she  can't  help  feeding 
and  loving  him.  He  sees  ;  which  to  her  is  a  mystery, 
because  although  she  has  always  acted  as  if,  in  some 
measure,  she  felt  things  at  a  distance,  she  has  never  seen 
and  never  can  see  anything.  Nor  are  his  senses,  for  all 
their  vivacity,  of  any  use  to  her.  For  what  do  they 
reveal  to  him  ?  Always  something  irrelevant :  a  shaft  of 
dusty  light  across  the  rafters,  a  blue  flame  dancing  on  the 
coals,  a  hum,  a  babbling  of  waters,  a  breath  of  heat  or 
of  coolness,  a  mortal  weariness  or  a  groundless  joy — all 
dream-images,  visions  of  a  play  world,  essences  painted  on 
air,  such  as  any  poet  might  invent  in  idleness.  Yet  the 
child  cares  about  them  immensely  :  he  is  full  of  sudden 
tears  and  of  jealous  little  loves.  "  Hush,  my  child,"  says 
good  mother  Psyche,  "  it's  all  nonsense."  It  is  not  for 
those  fantastic  visions  that  she  watches  :  she  knits  with 
her  eyes  shut,  and  mutters  her  same  old  prayers.  She  has 
always  groped  amidst  obstacles  like  a  mole  pressing  on 
where  the  earth  is  softest.  She  can  tell  friends  from  enemies 
(not  always  correctly)  by  a  mysterious  instinct  within  her, 
and  the  rhythm,  as  it  were,  of  their  approaching  step.  She 
is  long-suffering  and  faithful,  like  Penelope  ;  but  when  hard- 
pressed  and  at  bay  she  becomes  fierce.  She  is  terribly 
absolute  then,  blindly  bent  on  vengeance  and  wild  de 
struction.  At  other  times  she  can  melt  and  be  generous  ; 
in  her  beehive  she  is  not  only  the  congregation  of  workers, 
but  also  the  queen.  Her  stubborn  old-womanish  temper 
makes  her  ordinarily  unjust  to  her  best  impulses  and 
hypocritical  about  her  worst  ones.  She  is  artful  but  not 
intelligent,  least  of  all  about  herself.  For  this  reason  she 
can  never  understand  how  she  gave  birth  to  such  a  thankless 
child.  She  hardly  remembers  the  warm  ray  from  the  sun 
or  from  some  other  celestial  source  which  one  day  pierced 


to  her  heart,  and  begat  there  this  strange  uneasiness,  this 
truant  joy,  which  we  call  thought.  Seeing  how  quick  and 
observant  the  brat  is,  she  sometimes  sends  him  on  errands  ; 
but  he  loiters  terribly  on  the  way,  or  loses  it  altogether, 
forgets  what  he  was  sent  for,  and  brings  home  nothing  but 
strange  tales  about  Long-noses  and  Helmets-of-gold,  whom 
he  says  he  has  encountered.  He  prefers  the  poppies  to 
the  corn,  and  half  the  mushrooms  he  picks  are  of  the 
poisonous  variety ;  he  sometimes  insists  on  setting  apart 
his  food  for  imaginary  beings  called  the  dead  or  the  gods  ; 
and  worst  of  all,  he  once  ravished  and  married  a  fairy, 
whom  he  called  Truth  ;  and  he  wished  to  bring  her  to  live 
with  him  at  home.  At  that,  good  mother  Psyche  naturally 
put  her  foot  down.  No  hussies  here  !  Yet  there  are 
moments  when  she  relents,  when  her  worn  old  hands  rest 
in  her  lap,  when  she  remembers  and  wonders,  and  two 
cold  tears  trickle  down  from  her  blind  eyes.  What  is  the 
good  of  all  her  laboui  ?  Has  it  all  been,  perhaps,  for  his 
sake,  that  he  might  live  and  sing  and  be  happy  ?  Even 
in  her  green  days,  in  her  cool  vegetable  economy,  there 
had  been  waste  ;  she  had  unwittingly  put  forth  flowers  she 
could  not  see  and  diffused  a  fragrance  that  eluded  her. 
Now  her  warmer  heart  has  bred  this  wilder,  this  diviner 
folly  :  a  wanton  sweetness  shed  by  her  longer  travail  and 
a  flower  of  her  old  age.  But  he  forgets  her  in  his  selfishness, 
and  she  can  never,  never  understand  him. 


I  HEAR  that  Oxford  is  reading  Plotinus — a  blessed  change 
from  Hegel.  The  pious  mind  is  still  in  the  age  of  mytho 
logy  ;  science  has  confused  its  own  lessons,  for  want  of 
a  philosopher  who  should  understand  them  ;  and  what 
matters,  so  long  as  the  age  of  mythology  lasts,  is  that  the 
myths  that  occupy  the  fancy  should  be  wise  and  beautiful, 
and  should  teach  men  to  lay  up  their  treasures  in  heaven. 
The  philosophy  of  Plotinus  does  this,  and  does  it  magnifi 
cently.  Like  that  of  Plato  and  of  Aristotle  it  is  little  more 


than  a  rhetorical  inversion  or  perpetual  metaphor,  express 
ing  the  aim  of  life  under  the  figure  of  a  cosmos  which  is 
animate  and  which  has  already  attained  its  perfection. 
Considering  the  hurried  life  which  we  are  condemned  to 
lead,  and  the  shifting,  symbolic  ideas  to  which  we  are 
confined,  it  seems  hardly  worth  while  to  quarrel  with  such 
inspired  fabulists,  or  to  carp  at  the  cosmic  dress  in  which 
they  present  their  moralities.  Gentle,  secluded,  scholastic 
England  does  well  to  platonize.  It  had  never  ceased  to  do 
so.  In  spite  of  the  restiveness,  sometimes,  of  barbarian 
blood,  in  spite  of  Hebraic  religion  and  Germanic  philo 
sophy,  the  great  classical  tradition  has  always  been  seated 
here  ;  and  England  has  shared,  even  if  with  a  little  reserve 
and  mistrust,  in  the  ecclesiastical,  courtly,  military,  and 
artistic  heritage  of  Europe.  A  genuine  child  of  the  past, 
who  is  bred  to  knowledge  of  the  world,  and  does  not  plunge 
into  it  greedily  like  a  stranger,  cannot  worship  the  world  ; 
he  cannot  really  be  a  snob.  Those  who  have  profited  by 
a  long  life  cannot  possibly  identify  the  divine  life  with 
the  human.  They  will  not  be  satisfied  with  a  philosophy 
that  is  fundamentally  worldly,  that  cannot  lift  up  its  heart 
except  pragmatically,  because  the  good  things  are  hanging 
from  above,  or  because  the  long  way  round  by  righteousness 
and  the  ten  commandments  may  be  the  shortest  cut  to 
the  promised  land.  Their  love  of  wisdom  will  not  be  merely 
provisional,  nor  their  piety  a  sort  of  idyllic  interlude, 
penitent  but  hopeful,  comforting  itself  with  the  thought 
that  the  sour  grapes  will  soon  be  ripe,  and  oh,  so  delicious  ! 
They  will  not  remember  the  flesh-pots  of  Egypt  with  an 
eternal  regret,  and  the  flesh-pots  of  Berlin  and  New  York 
will  not  revive  their  appetite. 

Spirit  is  not  an  instrument  but  a  realization,  a  fruition. 
At  every  stage,  and  wherever  it  peeps  out  through  the 
interstices  of  existence,  it  is  a  contemplation  of  eternal 
things.  Eternal  things  are  not  other  material  things  by 
miracle  existing  for  ever  in  another  world  ;  eternal  things 
are  the  essences  of  all  things  here,  when  we  consider  what 
they  are  in  themselves  and  not  what,  in  the  world  of  fortune, 
they  may  bring  or  take  away  from  us  personally.  That  is 
why  piety  and  prayer  are  spiritual,  when  they  cease  to  be. 
magic  operations  or  efforts  of  a  celestial  diplomacy :  they 



lead  us  into  the  eternal  world.  Platonism  is  a  great 
window  in  the  same  direction.  It  is  well  to  open  it  afresh. 
I  should  not  say  of  the  typical  Englishman,  any  more 
than  of  the  typical  Greek,  that  he  was  spiritual ;  both  are 
healthy,  and  the  spirit  in  them  is  not  so  developed  as  to 
sickly  o'er  their  native  hue  with  the  pale  cast  of  thought, 
nor  to  surround  their  heads  with  any  visible  aureole  of 
consuming  fire.  Yet  I  think  that  their  very  health  saves 
them  both  from  worldliness  :  for  life  would  not  be  healthy 
and  free,  but  diseased  and  slavish,  if  it  were  ultimately 
turned  only  towards  its  instruments  and  to  the  pressing 
need  of  keeping  itself  going  ;  a  life  so  employed  would 
not  be  worth  living,  and  a  healthy  spirit  would  abandon  it. 
The  normal  Englishman,  like  the  normal  Greek,  is  addressed 
to  spiritual  things,  even  if  distantly  ;  so  that  when  for  any 
reason  his  spiritual  life  is  intensified,  he  will  create  or 
adopt  a  spiritual  philosophy,  like  that  of  Plotinus.  His 
inner  man  is  selective  ;  he  is  accustomed  not  to  accept 
unquestioningly  the  suasion  of  custom  and  not  to  tremble 
before  material  grandeur.  He  is  an  explorer  ;  he  has  some 
notion  of  the  extent  and  variety  of  nature,  with  enough 
appreciative  contempt  for  its  tropical  splendours,  moral 
and  geographical ;  it  is  with  a  clear  inward  satisfaction, 
even  if  with  some  grumbling  of  the  flesh,  that  he  turns 
his  back  upon  them  for  the  sake  of  his  sweet,  separate,  cool, 
country  life  at  home.  He  loves  the  earth,  not  the  world. 
His  ideal  is  that  people  everywhere  should  be  steady  and 
happy,  in  their  way,  as  he  is  in  his  ;  and  if  he  feels  some 
glow  at  the  power  and  influence  of  his  country,  or  the  spread 
of  his  religion,  it  is  not  because  he  covets  domination  or  a 
Roman  grandiloquent  greatness,  but  because  he  feels  that 
when  others  take  to  his  ways  he  will  be  safer  in  them 
himself,  and  the  world  more  decent.  He  wishes  to  be 
free,  free  to  choose  his  walks,  his  friends,  his  thoughts, 
his  employments  ;  and  this  freedom,  although  it  may  be 
employed  only  on  commonplace  and  earthly  things,  is 
the  very  principle  of  spirituality,  and  a  beginning  in  it. 

What  spirituality  is  when  developed  fully  may  be  seen 
clearly  in  the  system  of  Plotinus.  It  is  a  system  of  morals 
inverted  and  turned  into  a  cosmology ;  everything  in  his 
magic  universe  is  supposed  to  be  created  and  moved  by 


the  next  higher  being,  to  which  by  nature  it  aspires  ;    so 
that  life  everywhere  is  a  continual  prayer,  and  if  it  cannot 
actually  shake  off  its  fetters  and  take  wing  into  a  higher 
sphere,  at  least  it  imitates  and  worships  the  forms  which 
beckon  to  it  from  there.     All  this  is  a  true  allegory  ;    if 
any  one  takes  it  for  natural  science  he  must  think  it  a 
very  poor  speculation  ;  because  if  the  higher  thing  in  each 
instance  were  really  the  source  of  the  lower,  it  never  could 
have  determined  the  time,  place,  number,  distribution,  or 
imperfection  of  its  copies  ;  and  the  whole  drama  of  creation, 
in  everything  except  its  tendency  and  meaning,  must  be 
due  to  specific  and  various  predispositions  in  matter,  for 
which  this  system,  in  its  scientific  impotence,  has  forgotten 
to  make  room.     It  would  be  easy,  however,  to  supply 
this  defect.     We  might  start,  as  nature  actually  did,  at 
the  bottom,  and  pass  at  once  to  the  level  at  which  the 
Psyche,  having  organized  the  vital  functions  of  the  human 
animal,  begins  to  ask  itself  what  it  is  living  for.     The 
answer  is  not,  as  an  unspiritual  philosophy  would  have  it : 
In  order  to  live  on.     The  true  answer  is  :    In  order  to 
understand,  in  order  to  see  the  Ideas.     Those  Ideas  which 
the  Psyche  is  able  and  predestined  to  discern  are  such  as 
are  illustrated  or  suggested  by  its  own  life,   or  by  the 
aspects  which  nature  presents  to  it.     Each  Idea  will  be 
the  ideal  of  something  with  which  the  Psyche  is  naturally 
conversant;    but  the  good  of  all  these  psychic  labours 
will   lie   precisely  in   clarifying  and  realizing  that  ideal. 
To  envisage  and  clearly  to  discern  the  Idea  of  what  we  are 
about  is  the  whole  of  art,  spiritually  considered ;   it  is  all 
the  mind  can  or  need  do ;  and  the  more  singly  the  spirit 
is  rapt  in  the  meaning  and  vision  of  the  work,  the  more 
skilfully  the  hand  and  the  tongue  will  perform  it.     And 
the  standard  and  criterion  of  their  skill  is  in  turn  precisely 
the  same  vision  of  the  Idea :    for,  I  ask,  what  makes  an 
action  or  a  feeling  right,  except  that  it  clears  away  obstruc 
tions  and  brings  us  face  to  face  with  the  thing  we  love  ? 
The  whole  of  natural  life,  then,  is  an  aspiration  after  the 
realization  and  vision  of  Ideas,  and  all  action  is  for  the  sake 
of  contemplation. 

Plato  and  Aristotle  had  been  satisfied  to  stop  at  this 
stage  ;  but  Plotinus  carries  us  one  step  further.     What  is 


the  good  of  seeing  the  Ideas  ?  I  do  not  ask,  of  course, 
what  is  its  utility,  because  we  have  left  that  behind,  but 
what  is  the  nature  of  the  excellence  which  various  Ideas 
seem  to  have  in  common,  like  beauty,  or  affinity  with  the 
harmonious  and  perfected  life  of  the  Psyche.  Plotinus  says 
that  what  lends  excellence  to  the  Ideas  is  the  One  ;  and  I 
cannot  connect  —  perhaps  we  ought  not  to  connect  —  any 
idea  with  those  words.  But  by  looking  at  the  matter 
naturalistically  perhaps  we  may  discover  whence  the 
excellence  of  Ideas  and  of  the  vision  of  them  actually 
flows.  It  flows  from  health,  which  is  a  unity  of  function,  and 
it  flows  from  love,  which  is  an  emotional  unity  pervading 
that  function,  and  suffusing  its  object,  when  it  comes  before 
the  mind,  with  beauty  and  inexpressible  worth.  Here,  if 
I  am  not  mistaken,  we  have  the  key  to  the  whole  mystery, 
both  in  Plotinus  and  in  Plato.  The  One  or  the  Good  is 
the  mythical  counterpart  of  moral  harmony  in  the  spirit  ; 
it  is  the  principle  by  which  the  Ideas  were  disentangled 
from  the  detail  of  experience  and  the  flux  of  objects,  and 
it  is  again  the  principle  by  which  the  Ideas  themselves  are 
consecrated,  illumined,  and  turned  into  forms  of  Joy. 

Spirituality,  then,  lies  in  regarding  existence  merely 
as  a  vehicle  for  contemplation,  and  contemplation  merely 
as  a  vehicle  for  joy.  Epicurus  was  far  more  spiritual 
than  Moses.  But  Epicurus  could  free  the  spirit  only  in 
the  presence  of  the  simplest  things  ;  the  universe  terrified 
him,  quite  without  reason,  so  that  his  spirituality  was 
fumbling,  timid,  and  sad.  For  Plotinus  the  universe  had 
no  terrors  ;  he  liked  to  feel  himself  consumed  and  burning 
in  the  very  heart  of  the  sun,  and  poured  thence  in  a  flood 
of  light  from  sphere  to  sphere.  We,  in  this  remote  shore 
of  time,  may  catch  that  ray  and  retrace  it  ;  it  will  lead 
us  into  good  company. 


How  comes  it  that  the  word  Idea,  so  redolent  of  Platonism, 
has  been  the  fulcrum  on  which  British  philosophy  has 
turned  in  its  effort  to  dislodge  Platonism  from  its  founda- 

IDEAS  229 

tions,  and  to  lay  bare  the  positive  facts  ?  The  vicissitudes 
of  words  are  instructive  ;  they  show  us  what  each  age 
understood  or  forgot  in  the  wisdom  of  its  predecessors, 
and  what  new  things  it  discovered  to  which  it  gave  the 
old  names.  The  beauty  which  Plato  and  the  English 
saw  in  Ideas  was  the  same  beauty ;  they  both  found  in 
Ideas  the  immediate,  indubitable  object  of  knowledge. 
And  nevertheless,  hugging  the  same  certitude,  they  became 
sure  of  entirely  different  things. 

The  word  Idea  ought  to  mean  any  theme  which  atten 
tion  has  lighted  up,  any  aesthetic  or  logical  essence,  so 
long  as  it  is  observed  in  itself  or  used  to  describe  some 
ulterior  existence.  Amid  a  thousand  metaphysical  and 
psychological  abuses  of  the  term  this  purely  ideal  significa 
tion  sometimes  reappears  in  polite  speech  ;  for  instance 
when  Athalie  says,  in  Racine  : 

J  'ai  deux  f ois,  en  dormant,  revu  la  m6me  ide'e. 

Here,  perhaps  by  chance,  the  word  is  used  with  absolute 
propriety  and  its  chief  implications  are  indicated.  An  Idea 
is  something  seen,  an  immediate  presence  ;  it  is  something 
seen  in  a  dream,  or  imaginary ;  and  it  is  the  same  Idea 
when  seen  a  second  time,  or  a  universal.  That  universals 
are  present  to  intuition  was  the  secret  of  Plato  ;  yet  it  is 
the  homeliest  of  truths.  It  comes  to  seem  a  paradox, 
or  even  inconceivable,  because  people  suppose  they  see 
what  they  believe  they  are  looking  at,  which  is  some 
particular  thing,  the  object  of  investigation,  of  desire, 
and  of  action  ;  they  overlook  the  terms  of  their  thought, 
as  they  overlook  the  perspective  of  the  landscape.  These 
terms,  which  are  alone  immediate,  are  all  universals. 
Belief — the  expectation,  fear,  or  sense  of  events  hidden 
or  imminent — precedes  clear  perception  ;  but  it  is  supposed 
to  be  derived  from  it.  Perception  without  belief  would 
be  mere  intuition  of  Ideas,  and  no  belief  in  things  or  ulterior 
events  could  ever  be  based  on  it.  A  seraph  who  should 
know  only  Ideas  would  be  incapable  of  conceiving  any 
fact,  or  noting  any  change,  or  discovering  his  own  spiritual 
existence  ;  he  would  be  mathematics  actualized,  a  land 
scape  self -composed,  and  love  spread  like  butter.  The 
human  mind,  on  the  contrary,  is  the  expression  of  an 


animal  life,  swimming  hard  in  the  sea  of  matter.  It 
begins  by  being  the  darkest  belief  and  the  most  helpless 
discomfort,  and  it  proceeds  gradually  to  relieve  this 
uneasiness  and  to  tincture  this  blind  faith  with  more  and 
more  luminous  Ideas.  Ideas,  in  the  discovery  of  facts, 
are  only  graphic  symbols,  the  existence  and  locus  of  the 
facts  thus  described  being  posited  in  the  first  place  by  animal 
instinct  and  watchfulness.  If  we  suspend  these  eager 
explorations  for  a  moment,  and  check  our  practical  haste 
in  understanding  the  material  structure  of  things  and  in 
acting  upon  them,  it  becomes  perfectly  obvious  that  the 
data  of  actual  intuition  are  sounds,  figures,  movements, 
landscapes,  stories — all  universal  essences  appearing,  and 
perhaps  reappearing,  as  in  a  trance. 

I  think  that  Plato  in  his  youth  must  have  seen  his 
Ideas  with  this  mystical  directness,  and  must  have  felt 
the  irritation  common  to  mystics  at  being  called  back  out 
of  that  poetic  ecstasy  into  the  society  of  material  things. 
Those  essences  were  like  the  gods,  clear  and  immortal, 
however  fugitive  our  vision  of  them  might  be  ;  whereas 
things  were  in  their  inmost  substance  intricate  and  obscure 
and  treacherously  changeable ;  you  could  never  really 
know  what  any  of  them  was,  nor  what  it  might  become. 
The  Ideas  were  our  true  friends,  our  natural  companions, 
and  all  our  safe  knowledge  was  of  them  ;  things  were  only 
vehicles  by  which  Ideas  were  conveyed  to  us,  as  the  copies 
of  a  book  are  vehicles  for  its  sense. 

Nevertheless,  the  happy  intuition  of  pure  essences  of  all 
sorts,  as  life  vouchsafes  it  to  the  free  poet  or  to  the  logician, 
could  not  satisfy  the  heart  of  Plato.  He  felt  the  burden, 
the  incessant  sweet  torment,  of  the  flesh  ;  and  when  age 
— as  I  think  we  may  detect  in  the  changed  tone  of  his 
thoughts — relieved  him  of  this  obsession,  which  had  been 
also  his  first  inspiration,  it  only  reinforced  an  obsession  of 
a  different  kind,  the  indignation  of  an  aristocrat  and  the 
sorrow  of  a  patriot  at  the  doom  which  hung  visibly  over 
his  country.  The  fact  that  love  intervened  from  the  be 
ginning  in  Plato's  vision  of  the  Ideas  explains  why  his 
Ideas  were  not  the  essences  actually  manifested  in  ex 
perience,  as  it  comes  to  the  cold  eye  or  the  mathematical 
brain.  When  love  looks,  the  image  is  idealized  ;  it  does 

IDEAS  231 

not  show  the  obvious,  but  the  dreamt-of  and  the  desired. 
Platonism  is  not  pure  intuition,Jbuj^mfaij^n__cha.rged  with 
eritfTusiasm.  Then,  to  reinforce  this  mystification  oflFe 
ideas' By  love,  there  was  the  passionate  political  impulse 
to  contrast  the  form  things  actually  wore  with  that  which 
they  ought  to  have  worn.  This  double  moral  bias,  of  love 
and  of  hate,  with  its  dismissal  of  almost  all  given  essences 
as  not  the  right  essences,  produced  the  curious  hierarchy  of 
Platonic  Ideas  ;  themes  belonging  to  the  realm  of  essence 
by  their  ontological  texture  or  mode  of  being,  yet  clinging, 
like  a  faithful  shadow  or  simplified  echo,  to  the  morphology 
of  earthly  things.  The  poet  in  Plato  had  been  entrapped 
by  the  moralist,  and  the  logician  enslaved  by  the  legislator. 
He  turned  away  from  the  disinterested  vision  of  the  Ideas 
in  their  endless  variety  ;  he  lost,  he  almost  blushed  to  have 
possessed,  the  genial  faculty  of  his  anonymous  ancestors, 
the  creators  6f  mythology,  who  could  see  gods  in  all  things. 
He  cultivated  instead  the  art  of  a  nearer  progenitor  of  his, 
Solon,  and  attempted  to  make  laws  for  Athens,  for  man 
kind,  and  even  for  the  universe.  He  did  it  admirably ; 
the  Timaeus,  his  book  on  nature,  is  a  beautiful  myth,  and 
his  book  on  the  Laws  is  a  monument  of  wisdom.  But  Plato 
had  grown  forgetful  of  the  Ideas,  and  of  the  life  of  intui 
tion  ;  his  gaze  had  become  sad,  troubled,  and  hopeless ; 
he  was  preoccupied  with  making  existence  safe.  But 
how  should  existence  be  safe  ?  How  should  those  tiny 
nut-shells — his  walled  city  and  his  walled  cosmos — keep 
afloat  for  ever  in  this  rolling  sea  of  vagueness  and 
infinity  ? 

When  breeding  or  conscience  suppresses  a  man's  genius, 
his  genius  often  takes  its  revenge  and  reasserts  itself,  by 
some  indirection,  in  the  very  system  that  crushed  it.  This 
happened  to  paganism  when,  being  stamped  out  by  Chris 
tianity,  it  turned  Christianity  into  something  half  pagan. 
It  happened  also  to  Plato  when,  the  world  having  distracted 
him  from  his  Ideas,  he  made  a  supernatural  world  out  of 
them,  to  govern  and  correct  this  nether  world,  in  which  he 
was  forced  to  live.  To  say  that  Ideas  govern  the  world  is 
safe  and  easy,  if  these  Ideas  are  merely  names  for  the  forms 
which  the  world  happens  to  wear.  Nature  is  bound  to 
present  some  Idea  or  other  to  the  mind  ;  but  the  Ideas  it 


presents  actually  will  be  only  a  few,  and  not  the  most 
welcome,  since  this  world  is  a  most  paradoxical,  odd,  and 
picturesque  object,  and  not  at  all  the  sort  of  world  which 
the  human  mind  (being  a  highly  specialized  part  of  it) 
would  have  made  or  can  easily  believe  to  be  real.  The 
Ideas  which  a  philosopher  says  govern  the  world  are  not 
likely  to  be  its  true  laws  ;  and,  if  he  has  really  drawn 
them  from  observation,  they  cannot  possibly  be  all,  nor 
the  best,  Ideas  on  which  his  free  mind  would  have  chosen 
to  dwell.  The  truth,  which  is  a  standard  for  the  naturalist, 
for  the  poet  is  only  a  stimulus  ;  and  in  many  an  idealist 
the  poet  debauches  the  naturalist,  and  the  naturalist 
paralyses  the  poet.  The  earth  might  well  upbraid  Plato 
for  trying  to  build  his  seven -walled  cloud-castle  on  her 
back,  and  to  circumscribe  her  in  his  magic  circles.  Why 
should  she  be  forbidden  to  exhibit  any  other  essences  than 
those  authorized  by  this  metaphysical  Solon  ?  Why  should 
his  impoverished  Olympian  theology  be  imposed  upon  her, 
and  ah1  her  pretty  dryads  and  silly  fauns,  all  her  harpies 
and  chimeras,  be  frowned  upon  and  turned  into  black 
devils  ?  How  these  people  who  would  moralize  nature 
hate  nature  ;  and  if  they  loved  nature,  how  sweetly  and 
firmly  would  morality  take  its  human  place  there  without 
all  this  delusion  and  bluster !  But  I  am  not  concerned  so 
much  with  the  violence  done  by  Plato  to  nature ;  nature 
can  take  care  of  herself,  and  being  really  the  mother  even 
of  the  most  waspish  philosopher,  with  his  sting  and  his 
wings  and  his  buzzing,  she  can  comfortably  find  room  for 
him  and  his  system  amongst  her  swarming  children.  I 
wish  I  knew  if  the  real  wasps,  too,  have  a  philosophy,  and 
what  it  is  ;  probably  as  vital  and  idealistic  as  that  of  the 
Germans.  But  I  am  grieved  rather  at  the  servitude  and 
at  the  stark  aspect  imposed  on  the  Platonic  Ideas  by  their 
ambition  to  rule  the  world.  They  are  like  the  shorn 
Samson  in  the  treadmill ;  they  have  lost  the  radiance  and 
the  music  of  Phoebus  Apollo.  Socrates  taught  that  to  do 
wrong  is  to  suffer  harm  ;  and  his  Ideas,  in  establishing 
their  absurd  theocracy  over  nature,  were  compelled  to 
bend  their  backs  to  that  earth -labour,  and  to  become 
merely  a  celestial  zoology,  a  celestial  grammar,  and  a 
celestial  ethics.  Heaven  had  stooped  to  rule  the  earth, 

IDEAS  233 

and  the  crooked  features  of  the  earth  had  cast  their 
grotesque  shadow  on  heaven. 

This  is  the  first  chapter  in  the  sad  history  of  Ideas. 
Now  for  the  second. 

The  honest  Englishman  does  not  care  much  for  Ideas, 
because  in  his  labour  he  is  occupied  with  things  and  in 
his  leisure  with  play,  or  with  rest  in  a  haze  of  emotional 
indolence  :  but  finding  himself,  for  the  most  part,  deep  in 
the  mess  of  business,  he  is  heartily  desirous  of  knowing 
the  facts  ;  and  when,  in  his  scrupulous  inquiry  into  the 
facts,  he  finds  at  bottom  only  Ideas,  and  is  constrained  to 
become  a  philosopher  against  his  will,  he  contrives,  out  of 
those  very  Ideas,  to  elicit  some  knowledge  of  fact.  Ideas 
are  not  intrinsically  facts,  but  suppositions  ;  they  are 
descriptions  offering  themselves  officiously  as  testimonials 
for  facts  whose  character  remains  problematical,  since,  if 
there  were  no  such  facts,  the  Ideas  would  still  be  the  same  ; 
yet,  says  the  melancholy  Jaques  to  himself,  "Is  it  not  a 
fact  that  I  have  made  this  dubious  supposition  ?  Am  I 
not  entertaining  this  Idea  ?  This  sad  but  undeniable  ex 
perience  of  mine,  not  the  fact  which  I  sought  nor  the  Idea 
which  I  found,  is  the  actual  fact,  and  the  undeniable  ex 
istence."  Thus  the  occurrence  of  any  experience,  or  the 
existence  of  any  illusion,  assumes  the  names  both  of  fact 
and  of  idea  in  his  vocabulary,  and  the  existence  of  ideas 
becomes  the  corner-stone  of  his  philosophy. 

The  most  candid  and  delightful  of  English  philosophers 
(who  was  an  Irishman)  was  Berkeley.  In  his  ardent  youth, 
like  Plato,  he  awoke  to  pure  intuition  :  he  saw  Ideas,  or 
at  least  he  saw  that  he  did  not  see  material  things  ;  but 
instead  of  studying  these  Ideas  for  their  own  sake  with  a 
steadier  gaze,  he  took  up  the  disputatious  notion  of  denying 
that  material  things  existed  at  all,  because  he  could  not 
see  them.  It  was  a  great  simplification  ;  and  if  he  had  not 
had  conventional  and  apologetic  axes  to  grind,  he  might 
have  reached  the  radical  conclusion,  familiar  to  Indian 
sages,  that  nothing  could  exist  at  all,  least  of  all  himself. 
Language,  however,  and  the  Cartesian  philosophy,  made  it 
easy  for  him  to  assume  that  of  course  he  existed,  since  he 
saw  these  Ideas  ;  and  he  was  led  by  a  malicious  demon  to 
add,  that  the  Ideas  existed  too,  since  he  saw  them,  so  long 


as  they  were  visible  to  him.  But  if  he  existed  only  in  that 
he  saw  the  Ideas,  and  the  Ideas  existed  in  that  he  saw 
them,  was  there  any  difference  at  all  between  himself  seeing 
and  the  Ideas  seen  ?  None,  I  am  afraid  :  so  that  he  himself, 
whom  he  had  proudly  called  a  spirit,  would  be  in  truth 
only  a  series  of  ideas  (I  spell  them  now  with  a  small  i), 
and  the  ideas — in  which  he  had  not  stopped  to  recognize 
eternal  essences — would  be  only  the  pulses  of  his  fugitive 

Here  is  substance  for  an  excellent  ironical  system  of  the 
universe,  such  as  some  philosopher  in  Greece  might  have 
espoused  ;  a  flux  of  absolute  intensive  existences,  variously 
coloured  and  more  or  less  warm,  like  the  sparks  of  a  rocket. 
Some  scientific  philosopher  in  our  day  or  in  the  future 
may  be  tempted  to  work  out  this  system,  and  it  might 
have  been  the  true  one.  But  I  see  an  objection  to  it  from 
the  point  of  view  of  British  philosophy,  which  covets 
knowledge  of  fact.  The  philosopher  conceiving  this  system, 
if  the  system  was  true,  would  be  only  one  of  those  sparks  ; 
he  could  have  no  idea  except  the  idea  which  he  was  ;  the 
whole  landscape  before  him  would  be  but  the  fleeting 
nature  of  himself.  Although,  therefore,  by  an  infinitely 
improbable  accident,  his  philosophy  might  be  true,  he  could 
have  no  reason  to  think  it  true,  and  no  possibility  of  not 
thinking  it  so.  A  genuine  sceptic  might  be  satisfied  with 
this  result,  enjoying  each  moment  of  his  being,  and  laughing 
at  his  own  perpetual  pretension  of  knowing  anything 
further.  And  since  extremes  meet,  such  a  mocking  sceptic 
might  easily  become,  like  Plato,  a  lover  of  pure  Ideas.  If 
he  really  abandons  all  claims,  all  hopes,  all  memory  which 
is  more  than  fantasy,  and  simply  enjoys  the  illusion  of  the 
moment,  he  dwells  on  an  Idea,  which  is  all  that  an  illusion 
can  supply.  The  immediate  has  a  mystical  charm  ;  it  un 
veils  some  eternal  essence,  and  the  extreme  of  renunciation, 
like  a  sacrificial  death,  brings  a  supreme  security  in  another 
sphere.  Berkeley  and  Hume  were  little  more  than  boys 
when  they  fell  in  love  with  Ideas  ;  perhaps,  if  we  knew 
their  personal  history,  we  should  find  that  they  were  little 
children  when  they  first  did  so,  and  that  pure  Essence  was 
the  Beatrice  that  had  secretly  inspired  all  their  lives.  But 
though  they  were  youths  of  genius,  there  was  a  touch  in 

IDEAS  235 

them  of  the  prig  ;  the  immediate,  dear  as  it  is  to  fresh  and 
honest  hearts,  was  too  unconventional  for  them  legally  to 
wed  and  to  take  home,  as  it  were,  to  their  worldly  relations. 
In  England  to  love  Ideas  is  to  sow  one's  intellectual  wild 
oats.  There  may  be  something  healthy  and  impetuous  in 
that  impulse  which  is  engaging  ;  but  it  must  not  go  too 
far,  and  above  all  it  must  not  be  permanent.  The  British 
philosopher  dips  into  idealism  in  order  to  reform  belief,  to 
get  rid  of  dangerous  shams  or  uncongenial  dogmas,  not  for 
the  sake  of  pure  intuition  or  instant  assurance.  He  wishes 
to  remove  impediments  to  action  ;  he  hates  great  remote 
objects  as  he  hates  popery  and  policy ;  imposing  things 
are  impositions.  Better  get  rid,  if  possible,  of  substance 
and  cause  and  necessity  and  abstractions  and  self  and 
consciousness.  The  purpose  is  to  reduce  everything  to 
plain  experience  of  fact,  and  to  rest  neither  in  pure  intuition 
nor  in  external  existences.  For  instance,  he  has  two  argu 
ments  against  the  existence  of  matter  which  he  finds 
equally  satisf?xtory  :  one  that  matter  cannot  exist  because 
he  can  form  no  idea  of  it,  and  the  other  that  matter  cannot 
exist  because  it  is  merely  an  idea  which  he  forms.  He 
descends  to  the  immediate  only  for  the  sake  of  the  ulterior, 
for  the  immediate  in  some  other  place.  If  he  found  himself 
reduced  to  essences  actually  given  now,  he  would  be  terribly 
unhappy,  and  I  am  sure  would  renounce  philosophy  as  a 
bad  business,  as  he  did  in  the  person  of  Hume,  his  most 
profound  representative. 

Thus  European  speculation,  like  the  Athalie  of  Racine, 
has  twice  in  its  dreams  beheld  the  same  Ideas  ;  but  like 
that  uneasy  heroine  it  has  been  troubled  by  the  sight,  and 
has  stretched  out  its  arms  to  grasp  the  painted  shadow. 
The  first  time,  instead  of  Ideas,  it  found  a  celestial  hierarchy 
of  dominations  and  powers,  a  bevy  of  magic  influences, 
angels,  and  demons.  The  second  time,  instead  of  Ideas, 
it  found  an  irrevocable  flux  of  existing  feelings,  without 
cause,  purpose,  connection,  or  knowledge.  Perhaps  if  on 
a  third  occasion  the  Ideas  visited  a  less  burdened  and  pre 
occupied  soul,  that  could  look  on  them  without  apprehen 
sion,  they  might  be  welcomed  for  their  fair  aspect  and  for 
the  messages  they  convey  from  things,  without  being,  in 
their  own  persons,  either  deified  or  materialized. 



CONCERNING  the  visions  which  men  have  of  the  gods 
there  is  much  uncertainty.  It  is  written  that  no  man 
can  see  God  and  live  ;  but  I  think  some  evil  god  or  evil 
man  must  be  spoken  of,  and  that  they  come  nearer  to  the 
truth  who  say  that  the  vision  of  God  brings  perfect 
happiness.  I  suspect  this  is  true  in  a  humbler  and  more 
familiar  sense  than  is  intended  in  discourses  about  the 
state  of  the  soul  in  heaven ;  for  there  is  a  heaven  above 
every  place,  and  the  soul  mounts  to  it  in  all  its  thoughts 
and  actions,  when  these  are  perfect.  I  incline  also  to 
another  opinion,  which  would  surprise  those  religious  friends 
of  mine  who  call  me  an  atheist ;  namely,  that  whenever 
we  see  anything,  we  have,  or  might  have  if  we  chose,  a 
partial  vision  of  God,  and  a  moment  of  happiness.  For 
all  experience  comes  to  us  fatally,  from  an  alien  source 
which  in  physics  is  called  matter,  in  morals  power  or  will, 
and  in  religion  God ;  so  that  by  his  power  (as  I  learned 
when  a  child  in  my  Spanish  catechism)  God  is  present  in 
everything.  The  same  authority  added  (and  how  full  of 
meaning  that  word  is  to  me  now  !)  that  he  was  also  present 
in  everything  by  his  essence ;  since  what  is  brought 
unimpeachably  before  us  in  any  vision  is  some  essence 
which,  being  absolutely  indestructible,  is  in  that  respect 
divine.  It  is  indestructible  because,  if  all  trace  and 
memory  of  it  were  destroyed,  it  would  in  that  very  obscura 
tion  vindicate  its  essential  identity,  since  not  it,  but  only 
things  different  from  it,  would  now  exist.  Every  essence, 
therefore,  lies  eternally  at  the  very  foundations  of  being, 
and  is  a  part  of  the  divine  immutability  and  necessity ; 
an  intrinsic  feature  in  that  Nous  or  Logos  which  theologians 
tell  us  is  the  second  hypostasis  of  the  divine  nature. 
Yet  to  say  that  we  see  God  when  we  see  him  only  in  part 
is  perhaps  hazardous  and  open  to  objection,  because  a 
part  of  anything,  separated  from  the  rest,  becomes  a 
different  being,  qualitatively  and  numerically ;  and  it 
will  be  better  to  speak  of  our  visions  as  visions  of  angels 
or  messengers  or  demigods,  having  one  divine  parent  and 


one  human.  In  everything,  if  we  regard  it  as  it  is  in  itself, 
and  not  selfishly,  we  may  find  an  incarnation  or  manifesta 
tion  of  deity. 

How  the  divinity  of  our  daily  visitants  shines  out  at 
certain  moments  and  then  again  is  obscured  by  our  prac 
tical  haste  and  inattention,  is  admirably  expressed  in  the 
history  of  Helen.  Her  birth  was  miraculous,  and  yet 
quaintly  natural,  for  her  father  Zeus,  having  taken  the 
form  of  a  swan  when  he  wooed  her  mother  Leda,  she  was 
hatched  from  a  great  white  egg ;  and  there  was  always 
something  swanlike  in  the  movements  of  her  neck,  in  the 
composure  of  her  carriage,  as  if  borne  on  still  waters,  in 
the  scarcely  flushed  marble  of  her  skin,  and  in  the  lightness 
and  amplitude  of  her  floating  garments.  She  was  hardly 
of  this  world,  and  it  seemed  almost  a  desecration  to  have 
wedded  her  to  any  mortal.  Yet  she  offered  no  resistance 
to  love ;  it  was  indifferent  to  her  whom  she  might 
enamour,  or  into  what  nest  of  robbers  she  might  be 
carried  by  force.  Was  it  not  violence,  she  said  to  herself, 
to  exist  on  earth  at  all  ?  What  mattered  a  shade  more  or 
less  of  violence  ?  If  she  remained  in  a  manner  chaste  and 
inviolate,  it  was  only  because  she  was  too  beautiful  to  tempt 
the  lusts  of  men.  Neither  of  her  two  husbands  loved  or 
understood  her.  Menelaus  because  he  was  a  dullard,  and 
Paris  because  he  was  a  rake,  approached  her  as  they  would 
have  approached  any  other  woman,  and  they  found  no 
great  pleasure  in  her  society.  Yet  wherever  she  appeared, 
every  one  stopped  talking  and  was  motionless  ;  and  she 
was  worshipped  by  all  who  saw  her  pass  at  a  distance. 
Supreme  beauty  is  foreign  everywhere,  yet  everywhere 
has  a  right  of  domicile  ;  it  opens  a  window  to  heaven, 
and  is  a  cause  of  suspended  animation  and,  as  it  were, 
ecstatic  suicide  in  the  heart  of  mortals. 

Helen  passed  her  childhood  dazed,  but  with  a  pleasing 
wonder,  because  she  loved  her  brothers,  and  they,  absorbed 
though  they  were  habitually  in  their  violent  sports,  were 
tender  to  her.  When  they  died,  how  gladly  would  she  have 
followed  them  and  become  the  third  star  with  them  in 
heaven  !  But  she  found  herself  married  to  Menelaus  the 
king ;  and  this  her  first  mansion  at  Sparta,  the  narrowest 
of  citadels,  was  far  from  happy.  The  palace  was  a  great 


farm-house,  and  the  talk  in  it  was  all  of  harvests  and 
cattle  and  horses  and  wars.  The  men  were  boors,  and  their 
scruples  about  sacrifices  and  auguries  annoyed  her ;  being 
half  divine,  she  felt  no  need  for  religion.  "  What  advantage 
is  it,"  she  said  in  her  thoughts,  "  to  be  a  queen  when  I 
am  a  prisoner,  or  to  be  called  beautiful  where  nobody 
looks  at  me." 

Accordingly  it  was  with  a  vague  hope  and  a  secret 
desire  for  vengeance  that  she  heard  of  the  approach  of  a 
brilliant  stranger,  from  a  far  more  populous  and  flourishing 
city  than  Sparta,  who  came  with  gifts  and  a  glib  tongue 
to  view  the  wonders  of  the  island  world.  When  his  eyes 
fell  on  her,  his  unfeigned  surprise  filled  her  with  exultation. 
To  be  so  discerned,  for  her,  was  to  be  won.  Those  eyes 
could  recognize  divinity.  No  doubt  he  was  preparing  new 
fetters  for  her  and  new  sorrows,  but  for  a  moment  she 
would  be  free,  and  in  following  him  she  would  feel  herself 
;  once  more  the  goddess. 

In  fact,  so  long  as  they  sailed  the  dark-purple  sea,  or 
rested  in  caves  or  in  island  bowers,  all  was  pleasantness 
between  them.  Their  very  galley,  with  its  white  sails 
spread,  took  on  something  of  Helen's  beauty,  and  seemed 
a  cloud  wafted  across  the  Aegean,  or  the  swan,  her  father, 
riding  on  the  rippled  reaches  of  the  Meander.  Paris 
proved  a  candid  and  light-hearted  lover ;  never  vexed, 
he  was  all  grace  and  mastery  in  small  matters  :  one  of  those 
lordly  travellers  who  can  feel  the  charm  of  nature  and  of 
woman  in  every  clime,  however  exotic,  however  pure,  or 
however  impure  ;  and  the  incomparable  Helen  seemed 
indeed  incomparable  to  his  practised  mind.  He  adored 
her,  but  he  preferred  other  women.  Moreover,  she  found 
that  at  Troy  he  counted  for  nothing.  He  moved  amid 
battles  and  councils,  quite  at  home  in  the  scene,  but  never 
consulted  ;  a  prince  turned  shepherd,  a  familiar  but  super 
fluous  ornament,  like  a  fop  or  a  ballet-dancer  that  every 
body  smiled  upon  and  nobody  respected.  It  was  given 
him  in  the  end  to  slay  the  redoubtable  Achilles  with  a 
chance  arrow,  Apollo  secretly  directing  the  shaft,  but  he 
was  no  warrior.  It  was  a  useless  triumph,  as  his  abduction 
of  Helen  had  been  an  innocent  crime  :  both  were  the  work 
of  gods  laughing  at  human  arrogance.  There  were  doubt- 


less  street  rhetoricians  in  Ilium  who  upbraided  Paris  and 
Helen,  as  there  are  reasoning  philosophers  and  politicians 
to-day  who  attribute  the  ascendancy  or  decay  of  nations 
to  the  ideas  that  prevail  there,  forgetting  to  ask  why 
those  particular  ideas  have  been  embraced  by  those 
peoples,  when  all  ideas,  in  the  universal  market,  are  to 
be  had  gratis.  The  wise  old  Priam  and  his  counsellors 
knew  better.  They  did  not  disown  Paris  for  his  escapade, 
as  they  might  so  easily  have  done,  nor  did  they  return  Helen 
to  her  wronged  husband,  useless  as  she  was  at  Troy.  They 
knew  that  the  confused  battles  of  earth  must  be  fought 
over  some  nominal  prize  ;  men  and  animals  will  always 
be  fighting  for  something,  not  because  the  thing  is 
necessarily  of  any  value  to  them,  but  because  they  wish 
to  snatch  it  from  one  another.  Helen  had  lent  her  name 
and  image  to  colour  an  ancient  feud,  and  make  articulate 
the  dull  eternal  contention  between  Asia  and  Europe. 
It  was  for  existence  that  each  party  was  fighting ;  but  it 
added  to  their  courage  and  self-esteem  to  say  they  were 
fighting  for  beauty,  and  that  the  victory  of  their  side  would 
be  a  victory  for  the  gods.  But  the  gods  were  in  both  camps, 
and  in  neither,  as  in  her  heart  was  Helen  herself.  In  her 
isolation,  her  conscience  sometimes  reproached  her,  and 
she  wondered  that  she  never  heard  these  reproaches  from 
the  lips  of  others.  Hector  and  Priam  and  the  other  old 
men,  even  the  queen  and  the  gossiping  women,  treated 
her  with  deference  ;  but  they  cared  only  for  Troy  and  for 
their  own  affairs.  If  less  beset  than  in  her  strict  old  home, 
she  was  more  neglected  in  these  spacious  palaces,  and  no 
less  melancholy.  Was  it  a  miracle  of  generosity  that 
nobody  blamed  her,  or  was  it  a  supreme  proof  of  indifference, 
that  standing  in  the  centre  of  the  stage  she  remained  un 
heeded  ?  Was  she  so  much  a  goddess  that  they  thought 
her  a  statue  ?  Would  she  be  borne  away  by  the  victors 
like  an  inert  Palladium,  to  be  set  up  elsewhere  on  a  new 
pedestal  ?  She  did  not  understand  that  it  is  not  the 
vision  that  men  have  of  the  gods  that  works  their  safety 
or  ruin,  but  that  fatal  maladjustments,  or  natural  vigour 
in  them,  in  shaping  their  destiny,  call  that  vision  down. 
Nor  is  it  an  idle  vision ;  for  the  sight  turns  the  dreary 
length  of  their  misery  into  a  tragedy  flashing  with  light 


and  tears  ;  and  the  presence  of  Helen  on  those  beleaguered 
walls,  which  might  have  irritated  the  foolish,  consoled  the 
wise.  She  was  not  the  cause  of  their  danger  nor  of  their 
coming  disaster,  as  she  had  not  been  the  cause  of  the 
harsh  virtues  of  her  Spartan  clan ;  but  as  those  harsh 
virtues  had  created  her  beauty,  so  the  wealth  and  exuberant 
civilization  of  Ilium  had  recognized  it,  and  made  it  their 
own ;  and  she  was  a  glory  to  both  nations,  for  not  every 
city,  of  all  the  cities  that  perish,  has  had  a  queen  like  her. 

When  Troy  fell  at  last,  when  Hector  and  Paris  and 
Priam  were  dead,  and  Aeneas  had  escaped  just  in  time, 
she  waited,  impassible,  at  the  gate  of  the  smoking  acropolis, 
neither  glad  nor  sorry,  not  ashamed  to  see  her  first  husband 
again  and  his  shouting  friends — for  she  despised  them — 
nor  unwilling  to  be  removed,  as  it  were,  into  the  evening 
shadow  of  her  old  queenliness.  Something  told  her  that 
in  her  second  life  at  Sparta  she  would  be  more  feared  and 
more  respected ;  in  her  advancing  age  and  intangible 
isolation  she  would  be  as  a  priestess  whom  no  one — not 
even  Menelaus — would  dare  to  approach.  Her  crime  would 
be  her  protection ;  her  rebellion,  proudly  acknowledged 
and  never  retracted  in  spirit,  would  lift  her  above  all 
mankind.  Even  while  still  in  this  world,  she  would  belong 
to  the  other. 

There  is  an  obscure  rumour  that  after  the  fall  of  Troy 
Helen  never  returned  to  Sparta  but  was  spirited  away 
to  Egypt,  whilst  a  mere  phantasm  resembling  her  ac 
companied  her  dull  husband  back  to  his  dull  fastness  by 
the  pebbly  Eurotas.  This  turn  given  to  the  fable  hints 
darkly  at  the  unearthly  truth.  Helen  was  a  phantom 
always  and  everywhere ;  so  long  as  men  fought  for  her, 
taking  her  image,  as  it  were,  for  their  banner,  she  presided 
over  a  most  veritable  and  bloody  battle  ;  but  when  the 
battle  ceased  of  itself,  and  all  those  heroes  that  had  seen 
and  idolized  her  were  dead,  the  cerulean  colours  of  that 
banner  faded  from  it ;  the  shreds  of  it  rotted  indistinguish- 
ably  in  the  mire,  and  the  hues  that  had  lent  it  for  a  moment 
its  terrible  magic  fled  back  into  the  ether,  where  wind  and 
mist,  meteors  and  sunbeams,  never  cease  to  weave  them. 
The  passing  of  Helen  was  the  death  of  Greece,  but  Helen 
herself  is  its  immortality.  Yet  why  seek  to  interpret  the 


parable  ?  There  is  more  depth  of  suggestion  in  these 
ancient  myths  than  in  any  abstract  doctrine  which  we 
may  substitute  for  them.  Homer  and  his  companions 
certainly  were  not  writing  intentional  allegories ;  but 
they  had  a  sense  for  beauty  and  a  sense  for  the  flux  of 
things,  and  in  those  two  perceptions  the  whole  philosophy 
of  Ideas  is  latent.  Sight,  thought,  love  arrest  essences  ; 
and  time,  perpetually  undermining  the  existence  that 
brings  those  essences  before  us,  drives  them,  as  fast  as  we 
can  arrest  them,  like  a  sort  of  upward  flaw,  back  into 

t    53 

I  DO  not  conceive  the  Judgement  of  Paris  as  Rubens  has 
painted  it :  an  agricultural  labourer  leering  at  three  fat 
women  of  the  town  who  have  gone  into  the  country  for  a 
lark.  This  disrobing  of  goddesses,  though  there  may  be 
some  ancient  authority  for  it,  does  not  conform  to  my 
principles  of  exegesis,  and  I  pronounce  it  heretical. 
Goddesses  cannot  disrobe,  because  their  attributes  are 
their  substance.  They  are  like  the  images  of  the  Virgin 
in  Spanish  churches  ;  if  you  are  so  ill-advised,  you  may 
take  off  their  crown,  their  veils,  and  their  stiffly  embroidered 
conical  mantle  ;  but  what  will  remain  will  not  be  our 
Lady  either  of  Mercies  or  of  Sorrows,  but  a  pole,  with  a 
doll's  head  and  two  hands  attached.  The  spell  lies  in  the 
ornaments,  because  they  alone  are  symbolical  and  richly 
mysterious.  Similarly  the  virtue  of  those  pagan  goddesses 
did  not  lie  in  what  each  might  be  in  herself,  either  as  a 
conscious  spirit  or  as  a  beautiful  titanic  body  endowed 
with  free  and  immortal  life ;  their  relevant  virtue  was 
tutelary,  and  lay  in  their  patronage  of  particular  crafts 
or  passions  in  man.  For  this  reason  it  was  not  absurd 
that  they  should  be  rivals  in  beauty.  Of  course  in  itself 
every  nature,  celestial  or  even  earthly,  is  incomparable 
and  perfect  in  its  own  way.  But  goddesses  may  well 
compete  for  the  prize  of  beauty  in  the  eyes  of  a  mortal  ; 
it  is  not  their  persons  that  he  sees  or  can  see,  but  their 


gifts  ;  and  it  is  inevitable  and  right  that  these  should 
not  attract  him  equally.  The  Judgement  of  Paris  is 
essentially  like  the  Choice  of  Hercules,  a  moral  choice  and 
an  expression  of  character.  Only  Paris  was  not  asked  to 
choose  between  good  and  evil,  but  between  different 
goods  ;  his  three  goddesses  were  rivals  like  competing 
nations  or  religions  :  they  proposed  to  him  contrasted 
pursuits  and  forms  of  experience,  such  as  each  was  wont 
to  secure  for  her  votaries.  Their  offers  were  not  bribes, 
but  tests  ;  and  yet  the  suspicion  is  quite  justified  that  they 
were  tempting  him  ;  because  in  fact  none  of  them  had 
true  happiness  to  give.  They  represented  interests,  not 
reason  ;  each  secretly  felt  the  weakness  of  her  own  cause, 
and  wished  to  have  her  claims  to  superiority  (which  she 
knew  to  be  false)  confirmed  before  the  world,  even  by  the 
suffrage  of  fools.  A  bad  conscience  loves  to  be  flattered  and 
reassured  ;  company  consoles  it  for  loss  of  honour.  That 
is  why  these  assiduous  goddesses  run  to  every  youth  and 
whisper  their  soft  eloquence  in  his  ear. 

Methinks  I  see  Juno  appearing  in  a  sunlit  cloud,  with  a 
diadem  of  stars,  and  clothed  in  a  floating  garment  which 
Minerva  had  so  cunningly  woven  that  when  seen  in  a  certain 
light  (in  which  Juno  saw  it)  it  represented  the  labours  of 
Hercules,  but  from  any  other  angle  all  the  colours  (which 
were  those  of  the  peacock)  shifted  their  places  and  repre 
sented  the  treacheries  of  Jupiter.  She  bore  the  model  of  a 
city  girt  with  seven  walls,  every  gate,  bastion,  and  battle 
ment  complete,  and  in  the  midst  of  the  towering  acropolis 
a  great  temple,  doubtless  that  of  Juno,  surrounded  by 
smaller  temples  for  the  other  gods.  Raising  a  white  and 
queenly  hand,  as  if  in  warning  or  in  blessing,  she  spoke 
as  follows  : 

"  I  will  give  thee  dominion  over  the  world  and  over 
thyself,  if  thou  wilt  first  deliver  up  thyself  and  the  world 
into  my  keeping.  I  am  skilled  in  the  governance  of  men, 
and  my  ancient  laws,  though  they  seem  hard,  bring  dis 
cipline  into  their  lives,  and  fortify  them  in  seemly  habits 
of  labour  and  holiness." 

"  Perhaps,"  Paris  replied,  "  if  the  other  gods  cannot 
offer  me  freedom,  I  might  accept  from  thee  a  noble  servi 


Minerva  took  heart  at  these  words,  thinking  herself 
nothing  if  not  emancipated,  and  interposed  her  form, 
shining  in  its  golden  armour,  yet  obscured  by  the  azure 
light  of  her  eyes.  "  I  will  give  thee,"  she  cried,  "  philosophy 
natural,  moral,  logical,  and  rhetorical.  I  will  endue  thy 
mind  with  a  perfect  image  of  the  spheres  musically  en 
closing  the  earth.  Thou  shalt  possess  knowledge  of  all 
genera  and  species  of  animals,  herbs,  seeds,  gestations,  and 
diseases.  All  measures  and  proportions,  both  of  numbers 
and  of  forms,  shall  be  clear  to  thee  as  the  light  of  day. 
The  arts  of  tillage  and  planting  and  mining  and  weaving 
and  building — all  save  trade  and  voyages,  forbidden  to  a 
good  man — shall  have  no  secrets  for  thee  :  to  the  advan 
tage  of  thy  fellow-citizens,  if  ever  they  should  choose  thee 
for  their  legislator." 

"  Perhaps,"  Paris  again  answered,  "  when  I  grow  weary 
of  being  a  shepherd,  I  may  not  disdain  to  become  a 
philosopher.  It  is  a  better  pastime  for  old  age.  But  as 
I  am  no  shepherd  in  reality,  but  a  prince,  dwelling  on 
Mount  Ida  in  this  vernal  season  for  pleasure  and  for  the 
sake  of  these  rural  sights  and  savours  of  solitude,  so  later 
I  should  be  no  sophist  with  illusions  ;  I  should  merely 
entertain  my  wintry  leisure  with  the  fictions  of  the  learned, 
as  a  prince  may  :  for  they  are  other  pictures." 

Venus,  whose  marble  nakedness  was  not  remarked,  so 
divine  was  it  and  so  constitutional,  smiled  to  hear  the  youth 
say  this,  because  it  was  what  she  secretly  approved,  and 
she  added  disdainfully  :  "  Thou  art  wise  enough  already 
in  the  use  of  words  ;  but  what  hast  thou  tasted  of  ex 
perience  ?  Consider  the  gift  I  can  give  thee  :  Possession 
of  the  Immediate.  Is  not  this  the  best  ?  " 

"  Yes,"  he  replied,  smiling  in  return,  "  but  I  have  that 
in  any  case." 

It  might  seem  that  this  version  of  the  Judgement  of 
Paris  errs  in  not  giving  a  clear  victory  to  Venus  and  in 
saying  nothing  of  Helen ;  but  such  a  reproach  would  be 
hasty.  Possession  of  the  Immediate  had  always  seemed  to 
Paris  the  highest,  if  not  the  only,  good,  as  his  bucolic  life 
and  pastoral  amusements  could  prove  :  and  when  the  heart 
has  chosen,  it  is  not  necessary  to  express  in  words  the 
preference  for  a  deity  so  clearly  favoured.  To  real  shep- 


herds,  born  and  bred  on  the  mountain-side,  Arcadia  is  full 
of  dirt,  hardship,  and  poverty ;  sunrise  and  sunset  are 
heavy  to  them  ;  they  fatten  their  sheep  in  order  to  shear 
and  to  slaughter  them,  and  they  love  a  green  pasture 
because  it  fattens  the  sheep.  So  too  the  eclogues  of  town 
poets,  and  the  toy  Arcadias  of  Versailles  or  of  the  carnival, 
in  their  satin  slippers  and  gilded  crooks,  are  a  forced 
labour,  and  tedious  ;  at  best  a  new  masquerade  in  which 
the  jaded  may  continue  to  make  love.  But  there  is  a 
'poetic  Arcadia  none  the  less,  the  real  Arcadia  mirrored  in 
a  contemplative  mind.  Idle  vision  neither  is  what  it  looks 
at,  nor  apes  it :  it  is  infinitely  other,  yet  in  looking  forgets 
itself,  and  lends  its  heart  gladly  to  the  spectacle.  Paris 
shirked  none  of  the  labours  or  bestialities  of  the  country 
swain ;  with  a  semi-divine  tolerance  he  relished  those 
rough  sports  and  those  monotonous  pipings  :  anything  a 
creature  can  love,  some  god  finds  lovable.  He  tussled 
with  those  wenches,  and  the  crude  scent  of  those  smoking 
kettles  did  not  turn  his  stomach.  Had  it  been  less  mal 
odorous  at  court  ?  Was  there  not  more  freedom,  more 
laughter,  and  greater  plenty  here  ?  If  Paris  was  not  a 
hero,  at  least  he  was  not  a  snob.  He  was  a  truant  prince, 
a  fop  become  a  shepherd,  with  a  body  and  a  mind  capable 
of  great  things,  but  doing  easy  things  from  choice.  In  his 
very  softness,  since  it  was  voluntary,  there  was  a  kind  of 
strength,  the  strength  of  indifference,  and  freedom,  and 
universal  derision.  And  his  cynicism  was  voluptuous.  Idle 
vision  in  him  gilded  alike  everything  it  saw.  He  had 
chosen,  and  would  never  lose,  possession  of  the  Immediate. 
As  to  Helen,  I  have  not  ignored  her.  The  gods  called 
Paris  Alexander,  and  a  private  oracle  has  revealed  to  me 
that  they  also  had  another  name  for  Helen,  which  was 
Doxa  or  Epiphaneia,  that  is  to  say,  Glory  or  Evidence  or 
(being  otherwise  interpreted)  Seeming  or  Phantom.  She 
was  not  substantial,  but  a  manifestation  of  something  else. 
Her  beauty  was  her  all,  and  what  was  her  beauty  to  her 
self  ?  A  myriad  potential  appearances  wait  in  the  intricate 
recesses  of  substance,  or  in  the  ethereal  web  of  lights  and 
motions  that  vibrates  through  the  infinite,  ready  for  the 
quick  eye  that  can  discern  them.  This  discernment  is  at 
once  a  birth  and  a  marriage.  No  sooner  is  the  fair  phantom 


called  into  existence  than  she  has  already  leapt,  as  if  carried 
by  destiny,  into  her  lover's  arms  ;  for  nothing  can  be  more 
longed  for,  or  more  rapturously  beautiful  when  it  appears, 
than  perfect  evidence  is  to  the  mind.  And  the  womb  of 
nature,  too,  in  its  dark  fertility,  must  be  relieved  to  bring 
something  to  light  at  last.  Yet  this  rare  concourse  of 
desires,  and  this  blissful  marriage,  proves  in  the  end  most 
unhappy,  for  there  is  sin  in  it. 

As  all  desperate  lovers,  in  the  absence  of  their  true  love, 
embrace  what  best  they  can  find,  though  a  false  object,  so 
spirit  which,  if  not  entangled  in  circumstance  and  heavy 
with  dreams,  would  embrace  the  truth,  must  embrace 
appearance  instead.  There  is  a  momentary  lyrical  joy 
even  in  that,  because  appearance  has  a  being  of  its  own ; 
it  has  form,  like  Helen,  and  magic  comings  and  goings, 
like  visions  of  the  gods  :  and  if  spirit  were  not  incarnate 
and  had  nothing  to  fear  or  pursue,  appearance  would  be 
the  only  reality  it  would  care  to  dwell  on.  It  was  princely 
of  Paris  to  love  only  the  Immediate,  but  it  was  inhuman 
and  unwise ;  and  Venus  had  seduced  him  not  only  to  his 
ruin  (we  must  all  die  sooner  or  later)  but  to  his  disgrace 
and  perpetual  misery.  A  spirit  lodged  in  time,  place,  and 
an  animal  body  needs  to  be  mindful  of  existence  ;  it  needs 
to  respect  the  past,  the  hidden,  the  ulterior.  It  should  be 
satisfied  with  what  beauties  are  visible  from  its  station, 
and  with  such  truths  as  are  pertinent  to  its  fate.  It  should 
study  appearance  for  the  sake  of  substance.  But  as  the 
joy  of  a  free  spirit  is  in  perfect  evidence,  in  Doxa  or 
Epiphaneia,  it  inevitably  flouts  substance  and  embraces 
appearance  instead.  The  Rape  of  Helen  is  this  adulterous 
substitution,  dazzling  but  criminal. 


Now  that  for  some  years  my  body  has  not  been  visible  in 
the  places  it  used  to  haunt  (my  mind,  even  then,  being 
often  elsewhere),  my  friends  in  America  have  fallen  into 
the  habit  of  thinking  me  dead,  and  with  characteristic 


haste  and  kindness,  they  are  writing  obituary  notices,  as 
it  were,  on  my  life  and  works.  Some  of  these  reach  me 
in  this  other  world — the  friendly  ones,  which  their  authors 
send  me — and  without  the  aid  of  any  such  stratagem  as 
Swift's,  I  have  the  strange  pleasure  of  laughing  at  my  own 
epitaphs.  It  is  not  merely  the  play  of  vanity  that  enters 
into  this  experience,  nor  the  occasional  excuse  for  being 
unfair  in  return  ;  there  comes  with  it  a  genuine  discovery 
of  the  general  balance  of  one's  character.  A  man  has 
unrivalled  knowledge  of  the  details  of  his  life  and  feelings, 
but  it  is  hard  for  him  to  compose  his  personage  as  it 
appears  in  the  comedy  of  the  world,  or  in  the  eyes  of  other 
people.  It  is  not  true  that  contemporaries  misjudge  a 
man.  Competent  contemporaries  judge  him  perfectly,  much 
better  than  posterity,  which  is  composed  of  critics  no  less 
egotistical  and  obliged  to  rely  exclusively  on  documents 
easily  misinterpreted.  The  contemporary  can  read  more 
safely  between  the  lines  ;  and  if  the  general  public  often 
misjudges  the  men  of  its  own  time,  the  general  public  hears 
little  of  them.  It  is  guided  by  some  party  tag  or  casual 
association,  by  the  malignity  or  delusion  of  some  small 
coterie  that  has  caught  its  ear :  how  otherwise  should  it 
judge  ideas  it  has  not  grasped  and  people  it  has  not  seen  ? 
But  public  opinion  is  hardly  better  informed  about  the  past 
than  about  the  present,  and  histories  are  only  newspapers 
published  long  after  the  fact. 

As  to  my  person,  my  critics  are  very  gentle,  and  I  am 
sensible  of  the  kindness,  or  the  diffidence,  with  which  they 
treat  me.  I  do  not  mind  being  occasionally  denounced 
for  atheism,  conceit,  or  detachment.  One  has  to  be  oneself  ; 
and  so  long  as  the  facts  are  not  misrepresented — and  I 
have  little  to  complain  of  on  that  score — any  judgement 
based  upon  them  is  a  two-edged  sword  :  people  simply 
condemn  what  condemns  them.  I  can  always  say  to 
myself  that  my  atheism,  like  that  of  Spinoza,  is  true  piety 
towards  the  universe  and  denies  only  gods  fashioned  by 
men  in  their  own  image,  to  be  servants  of  their  human 
interests  ;  and  that  even  in  this  denial  I  am  no  rude 
iconoclast,  but  full  of  secret  sympathy  with  the  impulses 
of  idolaters.  My  detachment  from  things  and  persons  is 
also  affectionate,  and  simply  what  the  ancients  called 


philosophy  :  I  consent  that  a  flowing  river  should  flow  ;  I 
renounce  that  which  betrays,  and  cling  to  that  which 
satisfies,  and  I  relish  the  irony  of  truth  ;  but  my  security 
in  my  own  happiness  is  not  indifference  to  that  of  others  : 
I  rejoice  that  every  one  should  have  his  tastes  and  his 
pleasures.  That  I  am  conceited,  it  would  be  folly  to  deny  : 
what  artist,  what  thinker,  what  parent  does  not  over 
estimate  his  own  offspring  ?  Can  I  suppress  an  irresistible 
sense  of  seeing  things  clearly,  and  a  keen  delight  in  so 
seeing  them  ?  Frankly,  I  think  these  attitudes  of  mine 
are  justified  by  the  facts ;  but  I  entirely  understand  how 
offensive  they  must  be  to  any  one  who  thinks  they  are  not 
justified,  or  who  fears  that  they  may  be.  Let  the  irritant 
work.  The  arrows  of  anger  miss  their  mark.  Aimed  at 
some  imaginary  evil  bird  in  the  heavens,  they  scarcely 
startle  the  poet  wandering  in  his  dell.  He  hears  them  pass 
over  his  head  and  bury  their  venom  far  away  in  the  young 
grass.  Far  away  too  his  friends  are  designing  his  vain 
cenotaph,  and  inscribing  it  with  seemly  words  in  large 

On  the  other  hand,  in  respect  to  my  impersonal  opinions, 
I  notice  a  little  bewilderment,  and  some  obtuseness.  Of 
course,  if  people  are  repelled  by  the  subject  or  by  the 
manner  (which  is  an  integral  part  of  the  thought)  and  find 
it  all  unintelligible,  that  is  no  fault  of  theirs,  nor  of  mine  ; 
but  I  speak  of  the  initiated  and  of  such  as  are  willing  to 
lend  their  minds  to  my  sort  of  lucubration.  For  instance, 
when  more  than  twenty  years  ago,  I  wrote  some  Interpreta 
tions  of  Poetry  and  Religion,  this  is  what  William  James 
said  of  them  :  "  What  a  perfection  of  rottenness  .  .  .  how 
fantastic  a  philosophy  ! — as  if  the  '  world  of  values '  were 
independent  of  existence.  It  is  only  as  being  that  one 
thing  is  better  than  another.  The  idea  of  darkness  is  as 
good  as  that  of  light,  as  ideas.  There  is  more  value  in 
light's  being."  William  James  was  a  "  radical  empiricist/' 
so  that  for  him  the  being  of  light  could  not  have  meant 
anything  except  its  being  in  idea,  in  experience.  The  fan 
tastic  view  must  therefore  be  some  other  ;  apparently  that 
in  the  realm  of  unrealized  essences,  apart  from  any  observer, 
one  essence  can  be  better  than  another.  But  how  could 
any  one  attribute  such  a  view  to  me  ?  The  whole  conten- 


tion  of  my  book  was  that  the  glow  of  human  emotion 
lent  a  value  to  good  poetry  which  it  denied  to  bad,  and  to 
one  idea  of  God  which  it  denied  to  another.  My  position 
in  this  matter  was  that  of  empirical  philosophy,  and  of 
William  James  himself.  In  his  book  on  Pragmatism  he 
says  that  the  being  of  atoms  is  just  as  good  as  the  being 
of  God,  if  both  produce  the  same  effects  in  human  ex 
perience  ;  and  I  remember  once  mildly  protesting  to  him 
on  that  point,  and  asking  him  if,  apart  from  these  effects 
on  us,  the  existence  of  God,  assuming  God  to  be  conscious, 
would  not  have  a  considerable  value  in  itself ;  and  he 
replied,  "  Of  course ;  but  I  was  thinking  of  our  idea." 
This  was  exactly  the  attitude  of  my  book  ;  I  was  thinking 
of  our  religious  and  poetic  ideas,  and  reducing  their  value 
to  what  they  stood  for  in  the  elements  of  our  experience, 
or  in  our  destiny. 

I  think  I  see,  however,  where  the  trouble  lies.  The 
practical  intellect  conceives  everything  as  a  source  of 
influence.  Whether  it  be  matter  or  other  people,  or 
tutelary  spirits,  that  which  we  envisage  in  action  and 
passion  is  not  our  idea  of  these  objects,  but  their  operation 
on  us,  or  our  operation  on  them.  Now  a  source  of  influence 
cannot  be  non-existent.  Accordingly,  what  concerns 
earnest  people  in  their  religion  is  something,  they  know 
not  what,  which  is  real.  They  are  not  interested  in  forming 
poetic  or  dramatic  pictures  of  the  gods,  as  the  Greeks  did 
in  their  mythology,  but  rather  in  finding  a  living  God  to 
help  them,  as  even  the  Greeks  did  in  their  home  cultus  and 
their  oracles.  This  living  God,  since  he  is  to  operate  and 
to  be  worked  upon,  must  exist ;  otherwise  the  whole 
practice  of  religion  becomes  a  farce.  So  also  in  love  or 
in  science,  it  would  be  egotistical  and  affected  to  gloat 
on  our  own  ideal,  turning  our  backs  on  the  adorable  person 
or  the  natural  process  before  us.  It  is  the  danger  of 
empirical  and  critical  philosophy,  that  it  turns  our  atten 
tion  stubbornly  to  the  subjective :  legitimately,  I  think, 
if  the  purpose  is  merely  to  study  the  growth  and  logic  of 
our  beliefs,  but  illegitimately,  if  the  purpose  is  malicious, 
and  if  it  is  assumed  that  once  we  have  understood  how  our 
beliefs  are  formed  we  shall  abandon  them  and  believe 
nothing.  Empiricism  and  idealism  are,  as  Kant  called 


them,  excellent  cathartics,  but  they  are  nasty  food ;  and 
if  we  try  to  build  them  up  into  a  system  of  the  universe 
the  effort  is  not  only  self-contradictory  (because  we  ought 
then  to  possess  only  ideas  without  beliefs)  but  the  result 
is,  in  the  words  of  William  James,  fantastic  and  rotten. 

Now,  however  much  I  may  have  studied  the  human 
imagination,  I  have  never  doubted  that  even  highly 
imaginative  things,  like  poetry  and  religion,  express  real 
events,  if  not  in  the  outer  world,  at  least  in  the  inner 
growth  or  discipline  of  life.  Like  the  daily  experience 
of  the  senses  and  like  the  ideas  of  science,  they  form  a 
human  language,  all  the  terms  of  which  are  poetical  and  its 
images  dream-images,  but  which  symbolizes  things  and 
events  beyond  it  and  is  controlled  from  outside.  This 
would  be  perfectly  evident  to  any  other  animal  who  should 
discover  how  men  see  the  world  or  what  they  think  of  it : 
why  should  we  be  less  intelligent  than  any  other  animal 
would  be  about  ourselves  ?  Enlightenment  consists  in 
coming  nearer  and  nearer  to  the  natural  objects  that  lend 
a  practical  meaning  to  our  mental  discourse ;  and  when 
the  material  significance  of  our  dreams  is  thus  discovered, 
we  are  lost  in  admiration  at  the  originality,  humour,  and 
pictorial  grandeur  of  the  imagery  in  which  our  experience 
comes  to  us,  as  we  might  be  at  the  decorative  marvels  of 
tapestry  or  of  stained  glass  :  but  now  without  illusion. 
For  we  can  now  discriminate  the  rhythms  and  colour 
proper  to  our  mental  atmosphere  from  the  extrinsic  value 
of  discourse  as  a  sign  for  things  and  events  beyond  it. 
These  external  things  and  events  make  up  what  we  call 
nature.  It  is  nature,  or  some  part  of  nature,  or  some 
movement  of  nature  occurring  within  us  or  affecting  us, 
that  is  the  true  existent  object  of  religion,  of  science,  and 
of  love.  The  rest  is  a  mere  image. 

My  naturalism  is  sometimes  taxed  with  being  dogmatic, 
and  if  I  were  anxious  to  avoid  that  reproach,  I  might  easily 
reduce  my  naturalism  to  a  definition  and  say  that  if  ex 
perience  has  any  sources  whatever,  the  sum  and  system  of 
these  sources  shall  be  called  nature.  I  know  what  specu 
lative  difficulties  cluster  about  the  notion  of  cause,  which  in 
one  sense  is  quite  unnecessary  to  science;  but  so  long  as 
time,  process,  and  derivation  are  admitted  at  all,  events 


may  be  traced  back  to  earlier  events  which  were  their 
sources  ;  and  this  universal  flux  of  events  will  be  called 
nature.  Any  existing  persons,  and  any  gods  exercising 
power,  will  evidently  be  parts  of  nature.  But  I  am  not 
concerned  to  avoid  dogmatism  on  such  a  point.  Every 
assertion  about  existence  is  hazarded,  it  rests  on  animal 
faith,  not  on  logical  proof  ;  and  every  argument  to  support 
naturalism,  or  to  rebut  it,  implies  naturalism.  To  deny 
that  there  are  any  facts  (if  scepticism  can  be  carried  so 
far)  is  still  to  dogmatize,  no  less  than  it  would  be  to  point 
to  some  fact  in  particular ;  in  either  case  we  descend  into 
the  arena  of  existence,  which  may  betray  our  confidence. 
Any  fact  is  an  existence  which  discourse  plays  about  and 
regards,  but  does  not  create.  It  is  the  essence  of  the 
practical  intellect  to  prophesy  about  nature,  and  we  must 
all  do  it.  As  to  the  truth  of  our  prophecy,  that  is  always 
problematical,  because  nature  is  whatever  nature  happens 
to  be  ;  and  as  to  our  knowledge,  starting  as  it  does  from  a 
single  point,  the  present  position  of  the  thinker,  and  falling 
away  rapidly  in  clearness  and  certainty  as  the  perspective 
recedes,  it  cannot  pretend  to  draw  the  outlines  of  nature 
a  priori  :  yet  our  knowledge  of  nature,  in  our  neighbour 
hood  and  moral  climate,  is  very  considerable,  since  every 
known  fact  is  a  part  of  nature.  It  is  quite  idle  to 
deny,  for  instance,  that  human  life  depends  on  cosmic 
and  hygienic  influences  ;  or  that  in  the  end  all  human 
operations  must  run  back  somehow  to  the  rotation  of  the 
earth,  to  the  rays  of  the  sun,  to  the  moisture  and  fructifica 
tion  of  the  soil,  to  the  ferment  there  of  vegetative  and 
dreaming  spirits,  quickened  in  animals  endowed  with  loco 
motion  into  knowledge  of  surrounding  things  :  whence  the 
passionate  imaginations  which  we  find  in  ourselves.  I 
know  that  things  might  have  been  arranged  otherwise ; 
and  some  of  those  alternative  worlds  may  be  minutely 
thought  out  in  myth  or  in  philosophy,  in  obedience  to 
some  dialectical  or  moral  impulse  of  the  human  mind  ; 
but  that  all  those  other  worlds  are  figments  of  fancy, 
interesting  as  poetry  is  interesting,  and  that  only  the 
natural  world,  the  world  of  medicine  and  commerce,  is 
actual,  is  obvious  ;  so  obvious  to  every  man  in  his  sane 
moments,  that  I  have  always  thought  it  idle  to  argue  the 


point.  Argument  is  not  persuasive  to  madmen  ;  but 
they  can  be  won  over  by  gentler  courses  to  a  gradual 
docility  to  the  truth.  One  of  these  gentler  courses  is  this  : 
to  remember  that  madness  is  human,  that  dreams  have 
their  springs  in  the  depths  of  human  nature  and  of  human 
experience  ;  and  that  the  illusion  they  cause  may  be 
kindly  and  even  gloriously  dispelled  by  showing  what 
the  solid  truth  was  which  they  expressed  allegorically. 
Why  should  one  be^angry  with  dreams,  with  myth,  with 
allegory,  with  madness  ?  We  must  not  kill  the  mind, 
as  some  rationalists  do,  in  trying  to  cure  it.  The  life  of 
reason,  as  I  conceive  it,  is  simply  the  dreaming  mind 
becoming  coherent,  devising  symbols  and  methods,  such 
as  languages,  by  which  it  may  fitly  survey  its  own  career, 
and  the  forces  of  nature  on  which  that  career  depends. 
Reason  thereby  raises  our  vegetative  dream  into  a  poetic 
revelation  and  transcript  of  the  truth.  That  all  this  life 
of  expression  grows  up  in  animals  living  in  the  material 
world  is  the  deliverance  of  reason  itself,  in  our  lucid 
moments  ;  but  my  books,  being  descriptive  of  the  imagina 
tion  and  having  perhaps  some  touches  of  imagination  in 
them,  may  not  seem  to  have  expressed  my  lucid  moments 
alone.  They  were,  however,  intended  to  do  so  ;  and  I 
ought  to  have  warned  my  readers  more  often  that  such  was 
the  case. 

I  have  no  metaphysics,  and  in  that  sense  I  am  no 
philosopher,  but  a  poor  ignoramus  trusting  what  he  hears 
from  the  men  of  science.  I  rely  on  them  to  discover  gradu 
ally  exactly  which  elements  in  their  description  of  nature 
may  be  literally  true,  and  which  merely  symbolical :  even 
if  they  were  all  symbolical,  they  would  be  true  enough  for 
me.  My  naturalism  is  not  at  all  afraid  of  the  latest  theories 
of  space,  time,  or  matter :  what  I  understand  of  them,  I 
like,  and  am  ready  to  believe,  for  I  am  a  follower  of 
Plato  in  his  doctrine  that  only  knowledge  of  ideas  (if  we 
call  it  knowledge)  can  be  literal  and  exact,  whilst  practical 
knowledge  is  necessarily  mythical  in  form,  precisely  because 
its  object  exists  and  is  external  to  us.  An  arbitrary  sign, 
indication,  or  name  can  point  to  something  unambiguously, 
without  at  all  fathoming  its  nature,  and  therefore  can  be 
knowledge  of  fact :  which  an  aesthetic  or  logical  elucida- 


tion  of  ideas  can  never  be.  Every  idea  of  sense  or  science 
is  a  summary  sign,  on  a  different  plane  and  scale  altogether 
from  the  diffuse  material  facts  which  it  covers :  one 
unexampled  colour  for  many  rays,  one  indescribable  note 
for  many  vibrations,  one  picture  for  many  particles  of 
paint,  one  word  for  a  series  of  noises  or  letters.  A  word 
is  a  very  Platonic  thing :  you  cannot  say  when  it  begins, 
when  it  ends,  how  long  it  lasts,  nor  where  it  ever  is ;  and 
yet  it  is  the  only  unit  you  mean  to  utter,  or  normally 
hear.  Platonism  is  the  intuition  of  essences  in  the  presence 
of  things,  in  order  to  describe  them  :  it  is  mind  itself. 

I  am  quite  happy  in  this  human  ignorance  mitigated 
by  pictures,  for  it  yields  practical  security  and  poetic 
beauty :  what  more  can  a  sane  man  want  ?  In  this 
respect  I  think  sometimes  I  am  the  only  philosopher 
living :  I  am  resigned  to  being  a  mind.  I  have  put  my 
hand  into  the  hand  of  nature,  and  a  thrill  of  sympathy 
has  passed  from  her  into  my  very  heart,  so  that  I  can 
instinctively  see  all  things,  and  see  myself,  from  her  point 
of  view  :  a  sympathy  which  emboldens  me  often  to  say 
to  her,  "  Mother,  tell  me  a  story."  Not  the  fair  Sheherazad 
herself  knew  half  the  marvellous  tales  that  nature  spins  in 
the  brains  of  her  children.  But  I  must  not  let  go  her  hand 
in  my  wonder,  or  I  might  be  bewitched  and  lost  in  the  maze 
of  her  inventions. 

A  workman  must  not  quarrel  with  his  tools,  nor  the 
mind  with  ideas ;  and  I  have  little  patience  with  those 
philanthropists  who  hate  everything  human,  and  would 
reform  away  everything  that  men  love  or  can  love.  Yet 
if  we  dwell  too  lovingly  on  the  human  quality  and  poetic 
play  of  ideas,  we  may  forget  that  they  are  primarily  signs. 
The  practical  intellect  is  always  on  the  watch  for  ambient 
existences,  in  order  to  fight  or  to  swallow  them :  and  if 
by  chance  its  attention  is  arrested  at  an  'idea,  it  will 
instinctively  raise  that  idea  to  the  throne  of  power  which 
should  be  occupied  only  by  the  thing  which  it  stands  for 
and  poetically  describes.  Ideas  lend  themselves  to  idolatry. 
There  is  a  continual  incidental  deception  into  which  we 
are  betrayed  by  the  fictitious  and  symbolical  terms  of  our 
knowledge,  in  that  we  suppose  these  terms  to  form  the 
whole  essence  of  their  objects.  I  think  I  have  never  failed 


to  point  out  this  danger  of  illusion,  and  to  protest  against 
idolatry  in  thought,  so  much  more  frequent  and  dangerous 
than  the  worship  of  stocks  and  stones ;  but  at  the  same 
time,  as  such  idolatry  is  almost  inevitable,  and  as  the 
fictions  so  deified  often  cover  some  true  force  or  harmony 
in  nature,  I  have  sometimes  been  tempted  in  my  heart  to 
condone  this  illusion.  In  my  youth  it  seemed  as  if  a 
scientific  philosophy  was  unattainable ;  human  life,  I 
thought,  was  at  best  a  dream,  and  if  we  were  not  the 
dupes  of  one  error,  we  should  be  the  dupes  of  another ; 
and  whilst  of  course  the  critic  must  make  this  mental 
reservation  in  all  his  assents,  it  was  perhaps  too  much  to 
ask  mankind  to  do  so  ;  so  that  in  practice  we  were  con 
demned  to  overlook  the  deceptiveness  of  fable,  because 
there  would  be  less  beauty  and  no  more  truth  in  whatever 
theory  might  take  its  place.  I  think  now  that  this  despair 
of  finding  a  scientific  philosophy  was  premature,  and 
that  the  near  future  may  actually  produce  one  :  not  that 
its  terms  will  be  less  human  and  symbolical  than  those  to 
which  we  are  accustomed,  but  that  they  may  hug  more 
closely  the  true  movement  and  the  calculable  order  of 
nature.  The  truth,  though  it  must  be  expressed  in 
language,  is  not  for  that  reason  a  form  of  error.  No  doubt 
the  popularizers  of  science  will  turn  its  language  into  a 
revelation,  and  its  images  into  idols ;  but  the  abstract 
character  of  these  symbols  will  render  it  easier  for  the 
judicious  to  preserve  the  distinction  between  the  things 
to  be  described  and  the  science  which  describes  them. 

Was  it,  I  wonder,  this  touch  of  sympathy  with  splendid 
error,  bred  in  me  by  long  familiarity  with  religion  and 
philosophy,  that  offended  my  honest  critics  ?  Now  that  I 
show  less  sympathy  with  it,  will  they  be  better  satisfied  ? 
I  fear  the  opposite  is  the  case.  What  they  resented  was 
rather  that  in  spite  of  all  my  sympathy,  and  of  all  my 
despair  about  science,  it  never  occurred  to  me  to  think 
those  errors  true,  because  they  were  splendid,  except  true 
to  the  soul.  Did  they  expect  that  I  should  seriously  debate 
whether  the  Ghost  in  Hamlet  really  came  out  of  Purgatorial 
fires,  and  whether  Athena  really  descended  in  her  chariot 
from  Olympus  and  pulled  Achilles  by  his  yellow  hair  when 
he  was  in  danger  of  doing  something  rash  ?  Frankly,  I 


have  assumed — perhaps  prematurely — that  such  questions 
are  settled.  I  am  not  able  nor  willing  to  write  a  system 
of  magic  cosmology,  nor  to  propose  a  new  religion.  I 
merely  endeavour  to  interpret,  as  sympathetically  and 
imaginatively  as  I  can,  the  religion  and  poetry  already 
familiar  to  us  ;  and  I  interpret  them,  of  course,  on  their 
better  side,  not  as  childish  science,  but  as  subtle  creations 
of  hope,  tenderness,  and  ignorance. 

So  anxious  was  I,  when  younger,  to  find  some  rational 
justification  for  poetry  and  religion,  and  to  show  that 
their  magic  was  significant  of  true  facts,  that  I  insisted 
too  much,  as  I  now  think,  on  the  need  of  relevance  to  fact 
even  in  poetry.  Not  only  did  I  distinguish  good  religion 
from  bad  by  its  expression  of  practical  wisdom,  and  of  the 
moral  discipline  that  makes  for  happiness  in  this  world, 
but  I  maintained  that  the  noblest  poetry  also  must  express 
the  moral  burden  of  life  and  must  be  rich  in  wisdom.  Age 
has  made  me  less  exacting,  and  I  can  now  find  quite 
sufficient  perfection  in  poetry,  like  that  of  the  Chinese  and 
Arabians,  without  much  philosophic  scope,  in  mere  grace 
and  feeling  and  music  and  cloud-castles  and  frolic.  I 
assumed  formerly  that  an  idea  could  have  depth  and 
richness  only  if  somehow  redolent  of  former  experiences 
of  an  overt  kind.  I  had  been  taught  to  assign  no  substance 
to  the  mind,  but  to  conceive  it  as  a  system  of  successive 
ideas,  the  later  ones  mingling  with  a  survival  of  the  earlier, 
and  forming  a  cumulative  experience,  like  a  swelling 
musical  movement.  Now,  without  ceasing  to  conceive 
mental  discourse  in  that  way,  I  have  learned,  with  the 
younger  generation,  to  rely  more  on  the  substructure,  on 
the  material  and  psychical  machinery  that  puts  this 
conscious  show  on  the  stage,  and  pulls  the  wires.  Not  that 
I  ever  denied  or  really  doubted  that  this  substructure 
existed,  but  that  I  thought  it  a  more  prudent  and  critical 
method  in  philosophy  not  to  assume  it.  Certainly  it  is  a 
vast  assumption ;  but  I  see  now  an  irony  in  scepticism 
which  I  did  not  see  when  I  was  more  fervid  a  sceptic  ; 
namely,  that  in  addressing  anybody,  or  even  myself,  I 
have  already  made  that  assumption ;  and  that  if  I  tried 
to  rescind  it,  I  should  only  be  making  another,  no  less 
gratuitous,  and  far  more  extravagant ;  I  should  be  assum- 


ing  that  the  need  of  making  this  assumption  was  a  fatal 
illusion,  rather  than  a  natural  revelation  of  the  existence 
of  an  environment  to  a  living  animal.  This  environment 
has  been  called  the  unknowable,  the  unconscious  and  the 
subconscious — egotistical  and  absurd  names  for  it,  as  if 
its  essence  was  the  difficulty  we  have  in  approaching  it. 
Its  proper  names  are  matter,  substance,  nature,  or  soul  ; 
and  I  hope  people  will  learn  again  to  call  it  by  those  old 
names.  When  living  substance  is  thus  restored  beneath 
the  surface  of  experience,  there  is  no  longer  any  reason 
for  assuming  that  the  first  song  of  a  bird  may  not  be 
infinitely  rich  and  as  deep  as  heaven,  if  it  utters  the  vital 
impulses  of  that  moment  with  enough  completeness. 
The  analogies  of  this  utterance  with  other  events,  or  its 
outlying  suggestions,  whilst  they  may  render  it  more 
intelligible  to  a  third  person,  would  not  add  much  to  its 
inward  force  and  intrinsic  beauty.  Its  lyric  adequacy, 
though  of  course  not  independent  of  nature,  would  be 
independent  of  wisdom.  If  besides  being  an  adequate 
expression  of  the  soul,  the  song  expressed  the  lessons  of  a 
broad  experience,  which  that  soul  had  gathered  and 
digested,  this  fact  certainly  would  lend  a  great  tragic 
sublimity  to  that  song ;  but  to  be  poetical  or  religious 
intrinsically,  the  mystic  cry  is  enough. 

I  notice  that  men  of  the  world,  when  they  dip  into  my 
books,  find  them  consistent,  almost  oppressively  consistent, 
and  to  the  ladies  everything  is  crystal  -  clear  ;  yet  the 
philosophers  say  that  it  is  lazy  and  self-indulgent  of  me 
not  to  tell  them  plainly  what  I  think,  if  I  know  myself 
what  it  is.  Because  I  describe  madness  sympathetically, 
because  I  lose  myself  in  the  dreaming  mind,  and  see  the 
world  from  that  transcendental  point  of  vantage,  while  at 
the  same  time  interpreting  that  dream  by  its  presumable 
motives  and  by  its  moral  tendencies,  these  quick  and 
intense  reasoners  suppose  that  I  am  vacillating  in  my  own 
opinions.  My  own  opinions  are  a  minor  matter,  and  there 
was  usually  no  need,  for  the  task  in  hand,  that  I  should 
put  them  forward  ;  yet  as  a  matter  of  fact,  since  I  reached 
the  age  of  manhood,  they  have  not  changed.  In  my 
adolescence  I  thought  this  earthly  life  (not  unintelligibly, 
considering  what  I  had  then  seen  and  heard  of  it)  a  most 


hideous  thing,  and  I  was  not  disinclined  to  dismiss  it  as 
an  illusion,  for  which  perhaps  the  Catholic  epic  might 
be  substituted  to  advantage,  as  conforming  better  to  the 
impulses  of  the  soul ;  and  later  I  liked  to  regard  all  systems 
as  alternative  illusions  for  the  solipsist ;  but  neither 
solipsism  nor  Catholicism  were  ever  anything  to  me  but 
theoretic  poses  or  possibilities  ;  vistas  for  the  imagination, 
never  convictions.  I  was  well  aware,  as  I  am  still,  that 
any  such  vista  may  be  taken  for  true,  because  all  dreams 
are  persuasive  while  they  last ;  and  I  have  not  lost,  nor 
do  I  wish  to  lose,  a  certain  facility  and  pleasure  in  taking 
those  points  of  view  at  will,  and  speaking  those  philosophical 
languages.  But  though  as  a  child  I  regretted  the  fact  and 
now  I  hugely  enjoy  it,  I  have  never  been  able  to  elude  the 
recurring,  invincible,  and  ironic  conviction  that  whenever 
I  or  any  other  person  feign  to  be  living  in  any  of  those 
non-natural  worlds,  we  are  simply  dreaming  awake. 

In  general,  I  think  my  critics  attribute  to  me  more 
illusions  than  I  have.  My  dogmatism  may  be  a  fault  of 
temper  or  manner,  because  I  dislike  to  stop  to  qualify  or 
to  explain  everything ;  but  in  principle  it  is  raised  more 
diffidently  and  on  a  deeper  scepticism  than  most  of  the 
systems  which  are  called  critical.  My  "  essences,"  for 
instance,  are  blamed  for  being  gratuitous  inventions  or 
needless  abstractions.  But  essences  appear  precisely  when 
all  inventions  are  rescinded  and  the  irreducible  manifest 
datum  is  disclosed.  I  do  not  ask  any  one  to  believe  in 
essences.  I  ask  them  to  reject  every  belief,  and  what  they 
will  have  on  their  hands,  if  they  do  so,  will  be  some 
essence.  And  if,  believing  nothing,  they  could  infinitely 
enlarge  their  imagination,  the  whole  realm  of  essence  would 
loom  before  them.  This  realm  is  no  discovery  of  mine  ; 
it  has  been  described,  for  instance,  by  Leibniz  in  two 
different  ways  ;  once  as  the  collection  of  all  possible  worlds, 
and  again  as  the  abyss  of  non-existence,  le  neant,  of  which 
he  says  :  "  The  non-existent  ...  is  infinite,  it  is  eternal, 
it  has  a  great  many  of  the  attributes  of  God  ;  it  contains 
an  infinity  of  things,  since  all  those  things  which  do  not 
exist  at  all  are  included  in  the  non-existent,  and  those 
which  no  longer  exist  have  returned  to  the  non-existent." 
It  suffices,  therefore,  that  we  deny  a  thing  for  us  to  recog- 


nize  an  essence,  if  we  know  at  all  what  we  are  denying. 
And  the  essence  before  us,  whether  we  assert  or  deny  its 
existence,  is  certainly  no  abstraction  ;  for  there  is  no  other 
datum,  more  individual  or  more  obvious,  from  which  the 
abstraction  could  be  drawn.  The  difficulty  in  discern 
ing  essences  is  simply  the  very  real  difficulty  which  the 
practical  intellect  has  in  abstaining  from  belief,  and  from 
everywhere  thinking  it  finds  much  more  than  is  actually 

Profound  scepticism  is  favourable  to  conventions, 
because  it  doubts  that  the  criticism  of  conventions  is  any 
truer  than  they  are.  Fervent  believers  look  for  some 
system  of  philosophy  or  religion  that  shall  be  literally 
true  and  worthy  of  superseding  the  current  assumptions 
of  daily  life.  I  look  for  no  such  thing.  Never  for  a 
moment  can  I  bring  myself  to  regard  a  human  system — a 
piece  of  mental  discourse — as  more  than  a  system  of 
notation,  sometimes  picturesque,  sometimes  abstract  and 
mathematical.  Scientific  symbols,  terms  in  which  calcula 
tion  is  possible,  may  replace  poetic  symbols,  which  merely 
catch  echoes  of  the  senses  or  make  up  dramatic  units  out 
of  appearances  in  the  gross.  But  the  most  accurate 
scientific  system  would  still  be  only  a  method  of  description, 
and  the  actual  facts  would  continue  to  rejoice  in  their  own 
ways  of  being.  The  relevance  and  truth  of  science,  like 
the  relevance  and  truth  of  sense,  are  pragmatic,  in  that 
they  mark  the  actual  relations,  march,  and  distribution 
of  events,  in  the  terms  in  which  they  enter  our  experience. 

In  moral  philosophy  (which  is  my  chosen  subject)  I 
find  my  unsophisticated  readers,  as  I  found  my  pupils 
formerly,  delightfully  appreciative,  warmly  sympathetic, 
and  altogether  friends  of  mine  in  the  spirit.  It  is  a  joy, 
like  that  of  true  conversation,  to  look  and  laugh  and  cry 
at  the  world  so  unfeignedly  together.  But  the  other 
philosophers,  and  those  whose  religion  is  of  the  anxious 
and  intolerant  sort,  are  not  at  all  pleased.  They  think 
my  morality  very  loose  :  I  am  a  friend  of  publicans  and 
sinners,  not  (as  they  are)  in  zeal  to  reform  them,  but  because 
I  like  them  as  they  are  ;  and  indeed  I  am  a  pagan  and  a 
moral  sceptic  in  my  naturalism.  On  the  other  hand  (and 
this  seems  a  contradiction  to  them),  my  moral  philosophy 



looks  strangely  negative  and  narrow  ;  a  philosophy  of 
abstention  and  distaste  for  life.  What  a  horrible  combina 
tion,  they  say  to  themselves,  of  moral  licence  with  moral 
poverty  !  They  do  not  see  that  it  is  because  I  love  life 
that  I  wish  to  keep  it  sweet,  so  as  to  be  able  to  love  it 
altogether  :  and  that  all  I  wish  for  others,  or  dare  to 
recommend  to  them,  is  that  they  should  keep  their  lives 
sweet  also,  not  after  my  fashion,  but  each  man  in  his  own 
way.  I  talk  a  great  deal  about  the  good  and  the  ideal, 
having  learned  from  Plato  and  Aristotle  (since  the  living 
have  never  shown  me  how  to  live)  that,  granting  a  human 
nature  to  which  to  appeal,  the  good  and  the  ideal  may 
be  defined  with  some  accuracy.  Of  course,  they  cannot 
be  denned  immutably,  because  human  nature  is  not 
immutable  ;  and  they  cannot  be  denned  in  such  a  way 
as  to  be  transferred  without  change  from  one  race  or 
person  to  another,  because  human  nature  is  various.  Yet 
any  reflective  and  honest  man,  in  expressing  his  hopes 
and  preferences,  may  expect  to  find  many  of  his  neighbours 
agreeing  with  him,  and  when  they  agree,  they  may  work 
politically  together.  Now  I  am  sometimes  blamed  for  not 
labouring  more  earnestly  to  bring  down  the  good  of  which 
I  prate  into  the  lives  of  other  men.  My  critics  suppose, 
apparently,  that  I  mean  by  the  good  some  particular  way 
of  life  or  some  type  of  character  which  is  alone  virtuous, 
and  which  ought  to  be  propagated.  Alas,  their  propa 
gandas  !  How  they  have  filled  this  world  with  hatred, 
darkness,  and  blood !  How  they  are  still  the  eternal 
obstacle,  in  every  home  and  in  every  heart,  to  a  simple 
happiness  !  I  have  no  wish  to  propagate  any  particular 
character,  least  of  all  my  own  ;  my  conceit  does  not  take 
that  form.  I  wish  individuals,  and  races,  and  nations  to 
be  themselves,  and  to  multiply  the  forms  of  perfection 
and  happiness,  as  nature  prompts  them.  The  only  thing 
which  I  think  might  be  propagated  without  injustice  to 
the  types  thereby  suppressed  is  harmony  ;  enough  harmony 
to  prevent  the  interference  of  one  type  with  another,  and 
to  allow  the  perfect  development  of  each  type.  The  good, 
as  I  conceive  it,  is  happiness,  happiness  for  each  man 
after  his  own  heart,  and  for  each  hour  according  to  its 
inspiration.  I  should  dread  to  transplant  my  happiness 


into  other  people ;  it  might  die  in  that  soil ;  and  my 
critics  are  the  first  to  tell  me  that  my  sort  of  happiness 
is  a  poor  thing  in  their  estimation.  Well  and  good.  I 
congratulate  them  on  their  true  loves  :  but  how  should  I 
be  able  to  speed  them  on  their  course  ?  They  do  not 
place  their  happiness  in  the  things  I  have,  or  can  give. 
No  man  can  set  up  an  ideal  for  another,  nor  labour  to  realize 
it  for  him,  save  by  his  leave  or  as  his  spokesman,  perhaps 
more  ready  with  the  right  word.  To  find  the  compara 
tively  right  word,  my  critics  seem  to  agree,  is  my  art. 
Do  I  not  practise  it  for  their  benefit  as  best  I  can  ?  Is  it 
I  who  am  indifferent  to  the  being  of  light  ?  Who  loves 
it  more,  or  basks  in  it  more  joyfully  ?  And  do  I  do 
nothing  that  the  light  may  come  ?  Is  it  I  who  tremble 
lest  at  its  coming  it  should  dissolve  the  creatures  begotten 
in  darkness  ?  Ah,  I  know  why  my  critics  murmur  and 
are  dissatisfied.  I  do  not  endeavour  to  deceive  myself, 
nor  to  deceive  them,  nor  to  aid  them  in  deceiving  them 
selves.  They  will  never  prevail  on  me  to  do  that.  I  am 
a  disciple  of  Socrates. 


A  TRAVELLER  should  be  devout  to  Hermes,  and  I  have 
always  loved  him  above  the  other  gods  for  that  charm 
ing  union  which  is  found  in  him  of  youth  with  experience, 
alacrity  with  prudence,  modesty  with  laughter,  and  a  ready 
tongue  with  a  sound  heart.  In  him  the  first  bubblings  of 
mockery  subside  at  once  into  courtesy  and  helpfulness. 
He  is  the  winged  Figaro  of  Olympus,  willing  to  yield  to 
others  in  station  and  to  pretend  to  serve  them,  but  really 
wiser  and  happier  than  any  of  them.  There  is  a  certain 
roguery  in  him,  and  the  habit  of  winking  at  mischief.  He 
has  a  great  gift  for  dissertation,  and  his  abundant  eloquence, 
always  unimpeachable  in  form  and  in  point,  does  not  hug 
the  truth  so  closely  as  pious  people  might  expect  in  a  god 
who,  as  they  say  sagaciously,  can  have  no  motive  for  lying. 
But  gods  do  not  need  motives.  The  lies  of  Hermes  are 
jests  ;  they  represent  things  as  they  might  have  been,  and 


serve  to  show  what  a  strange  accident  the  truth  is.  The 
reproach  which  Virgil  addresses  to  his  Juno,  "  Such  malig 
nity  in  minds  celestial  ?  "  could  never  apply  to  this  amiable 
divinity,  who,  if  he  is  a  rascal  at  all  (which  I  do  not  admit), 
is  a  disinterested  rascal.  He  has  given  no  pawns  to  fortune, 
he  is  not  a  householder,  he  is  not  pledged  against  his  will  to 
any  cause.  Homer  tells  us  that  Hermes  was  a  thief  ;  but 
the  beauty  of  mythology  is  that  every  poet  can  recast  it 
according  to  his  own  insight  and  sense  of  propriety  ;  as,  in 
fact,  our  solemn  theologians  do  also,  although  they  pretend 
that  their  theology  is  a  science,  and  are  not  wide  awake 
enough  to  notice  the  dreamful,  dramatic  impulse  which 
leads  them  to  construct  it.  Now,  in  my  vision,  the  thievery 
of  Hermes,  and  the  fact  that  he  was  the  patron  of  robbers, 
merchants,  rhetoricians,  and  liars,  far  from  being  unworthy 
of  his  divine  nature,  are  a  superb  and  humorous  expression 
of  it.  He  did  not  steal  the  cattle  of  Apollo  for  profit. 
Apollo  himself — a  most  exquisite  young  god — did  not  give 
a  fig  for  his  cattle  nor  for  his  rustic  employment ;  in 
adopting  it  he  was  doing  a  kind  turn  to  a  friend,  or  had 
a  love-lorn  scheme  or  a  wager  afoot,  or  merely  wished  for 
the  moment  to  be  idyllic.  It  was  a  pleasant  scherzo  (after 
the  andante  which  he  played  in  the  heavens,  in  his  capacity 
of  sun-god  and  inspirer  of  all  prophets)  to  lean  gracefully 
here  on  his  herdsman's  staff,  or  to  lie  under  a  tuft  of  trees 
on  some  mossy  hillock,  in  the  midst  of  his  pasturing  kine, 
and  to  hold  the  poor  peeping  dryads  spellbound  by  the 
operatic  marvels  of  his  singing.  In  purloining  those  oxen, 
Hermes,  who  was  a  very  little  boy  at  the  time,  simply 
wanted  to  mock  these  affectations  of  his  long-haired  elder 
brother  ;  and  Apollo,  truly  an  enraptured  artist  and  not 
a  prig,  and  invulnerable  like  Hermes  in  his  godlike  freedom, 
did  not  in  the  least  mind  the  practical  joke,  nor  the  ridicule, 
but  was  the  first  to  join  in  the  laugh. 

When  Hermes  consents  to  be  the  patron  of  thieves  and 
money-lenders  it  is  in  the  same  spirit.  Standing,  purse  in 
hand,  in  his  little  shrine  above  their  dens,  he  smiles  as  if 
to  remind  them  that  everything  is  trash  which  mortals  can 
snatch  from  one  another  by  thieving  or  bargaining,  and 
that  the  purpose  of  all  their  voyages,  and  fairs,  and  high 
way  robberies  is  a  bauble,  such  as  the  dirty  children  playing 


in  the  street  set  up  as  a  counter  in  their  game.  But 
Hermes  is  not  impatient  even  of  the  gutter-snipes,  with 
their  cries  and  their  shrill  quarrels.  He  laughs  at  their 
grimaces  ;  their  jests  do  not  seem  emptier  to  him  than 
those  of  their  elders  ;  he  is  not  offended  at  their  rags,  but 
sends  sleep  to  them  as  they  lie  huddled  under  some  arch 
way  or  stretched  in  the  sun  upon  the  temple  steps.  He 
presides  no  less  benignly  over  thieves'  kitchens  and  over 
the  shipyards  and  counting-houses  of  traders  ;  not  that  he 
cares  at  all  who  makes  the  profit  or  who  hoards  the 
treasure,  but  that  sagacity  and  the  hum  of  business  are 
delightful  to  him  in  themselves.  He  likes  to  cull  the 
passion  and  sparkle  out  of  the  most  sordid  life,  and  the 
confused  rumble  of  civilization  is  pleasant  to  his  senses, 
like  a  sweet  vapour  rising  from  the  evening  sacrifice. 

His  admirable  temper  and  mastery  of  soul  appear  in 
nothing  more  clearly  than  in  his  love-affair  with  the 
beautiful  Maia.  She  is  ill-spoken  of,  but  he  is  very,  very 
fond  of  her,  and  deeply  happy  in  her  love.  It  is  a  secret 
relation,  although  everybody  has  heard  of  it ;  but  the 
nymph  is  a  mystery  ;  in  fact,  although  everybody  has 
seen  her  at  one  time  or  another,  no  one  has  ever  known 
then  that  it  was  she.  Hermes  alone  recognizes  and  loves 
her  in  her  own  person,  and  calls  her  by  her  name  ;  but 
privately.  Sometimes,  with  that  indiscretion  and  over- 
familiarity  which  the  young  allow  themselves  in  their  cups, 
his  brothers  ask  him  where  he  meets  her  ;  and  he  only 
smiles  a  little  and  is  silent.  She  is  said  to  be  a  wild  un 
manageable  being,  half  maenad  and  half  shrew;  a  waif 
always  appearing  and  disappearing  without  any  reason, 
and  in  her  fitful  temper  at  once  exacting  and  tedious. 
Her  eyes  are  sometimes  blue  and  sometimes  black,  like 
heaven.  Empty-headed  and  too  gay,  some  people  think 
her ;  but  others  understand  that  she  is  constitutionally 
melancholy  and  quite  mad.  They  say  she  often  sits  alone, 
hardly  distinguishable  in  the  speckled  sunshine  of  the 
forest,  or  else  by  the  sea,  spreading  her  hair  to  the  wind 
and  moaning  :  and  then  Hermes  flies  to  her  and  comforts 
her,  for  she  is  an  exile  everywhere  and  he  is  everywhere 
at  home.  It  is  rumoured  that  in  the ^  East  she  has  had  a 
great  position,  and  has  been  Queen  or  the  Universe ;  but 


in  Europe  she  has  no  settled  metaphysical  status,  and  it 
is  not  known  whether  she  is  leally  a  goddess,  mistress 
over  herself,  or  only  a  fay  or  a  phantom  at  other  people's 
beck  and  call ;  and  she  has  nowhere  any  temple  or  rustic 
sanctuary  or  respectable  oracle.  Moreover,  she  has  in 
expressibly  shocked  the  virtuous,  who  think  so  much  of 
genealogy,  by  saying,  as  is  reported,  that  she  has  no  idea 
who  is  the  father  of  her  children.  Hermes  laughs  merrily 
at  this,  calling  it  one  of  her  harmless  sallies,  which  she 
indulges  in  simply  because  they  occur  to  her,  and  because 
she  likes  to  show  her  independence  and  to  flout  the  sober 
censors  of  this  world.  He  is  perfectly  confident  s^e  has 
never  had  any  wooer  but  himself,  nor  would  dream  of 
accepting  any  other.  Even  with  him  she  is  always  reverting 
to  stubborn  refusals  and  denials  and  calling  him  names  ; 
but  when  the  spitfire  is  raging  most  angrily,  he  has  only 
to  gaze  at  her  steadily  and  throw  his  arm  gaily  about  her, 
as  much  as  to  say,  "  Don't  be  a  fool,"  for  her  to  be  in 
stantly  mollified  and  confess  that  it  was  all  make-believe, 
but  that  she  couldn't  help  it.  Then  it  is  wonderful  how 
reasonable  she  becomes,  how  perfectly  trustful  and  frank, 
so  that  no  companion  could  be  more  deeply  delightful. 
She  is  as  light  as  a  feather,  then,  in  his  arms.  The  truth 
is,  she  lives  only  for  him ;  she  really  has  no  children,  only 
young  sisters  who  are  also  more  or  less  in  love  with  him 
and  he  with  them  ;  and  she  sleeps  her  whole  life  long  in 
his  absence.  In  all  those  strange  doings  and  wanderings 
reported  of  her  she  is  only  walking  in  her  sleep.  The 
approach  of  Hermes  awakes  her  and  lends  her  life — the 
only  life  she  has.  Her  true  name  is  Illusion ;  and  it  is 
very  characteristic  of  him,  so  rich  in  pity,  merriment,  and 
shrewdness,  to  have  chosen  this  poor  child,  Illusion,  for 
his  love. 

Hermes  is  the  great  interpreter,  the  master  of  riddles. 
I  should  not  honour  him  for  his  skill  in  riddles  if  I  thought 
he  invented  them  wantonly,  because  he  liked  to  puzzle 
himself  with  them,  or  to  reduce  other  people  to  a  foolish 
perplexity  without  cause.  I  hate  enigmas  ;  and  if  I  be 
lieved  that  Hermes  was  the  inspirer  of  those  odious  persons 
who  are  always  asking  conundrums  and  making  puns  I 
should  renounce  him  altogether,  break  his  statue,  turn  his 


picture  to  the  wall,  and  devote  myself  exclusively  to  the 
cult  of  some  sylvan  deity,  all  silence  and  simple  light.  But 
I  am  sure  Hermes  loves  riddles  only  because  they  are  no 
riddles  to  him  ;  he  is  never  caught  in  the  tangle,  and  he 
laughs  to  see  how  unnecessarily  poor  opinionated  mortals 
befool  themselves,  wilfully  following  any  devious  scent 
once  they  are  on  it  by  chance,  and  missing  the  obvious  for 
ever.  He  gives  them  what  sly  hints  he  can  to  break  the 
spell  of  their  blindness  ;  but  they  are  so  wedded  to  their 
false  preconceptions  that  they  do  not  understand  him,  and 
are  only  the  more  perplexed.  Sometimes,  however,  they 
take  the  hint,  their  wit  grows  nimble,  their  thoughts  catch 
fire,  and  insight,  solving  every  idle  riddle,  harmonizes  the 
jarring  cords  of  the  mind. 

The  wand  of  Hermes  has  serpents  wound  about  it, 
but  is  capped  with  wings,  so  that  at  its  touch  the  sting 
and  the  coil  of  care  may  vanish,  and  that  we  may  be 
freed  from  torpor  and  dull  enchantment,  and  may  see, 
as  the  god  does,  how  foolish  we  are.  All  these  mysteries 
that  befog  us  are  not  mysteries  really  ;  they  are  the 
mother-tongue  of  nature.  Rustics,  and  also  philosophers, 
think  that  any  language  but  theirs  is  gibberish  ;  they  are 
sorry  for  the  stranger  who  can  speak  only  an  unintelligible 
language,  and  are  sure  he  will  be  damned  unless  the  truth  is 
preached  to  him  speedily  by  some  impertinent  missionary 
from  their  own  country.  They  even  argue  with  nature, 
trying  to  convince  her  that  she  cannot  move,  or  cannot  think, 
or  cannot  have  more  dimensions  than  those  of  their  under 
standing.  Oh  for  a  touch  of  the  healing  wand  of  Hermes 
the  Interpreter,  that  we  might  understand  the  language  of 
the  birds  and  the  stars,  and,  laughing  first  at  what  they 
say  of  us,  might  then  see  our  image  in  the  mirror  of 
infinity,  and  laugh  at  ourselves  !  Here  is  a  kindly  god 
indeed,  humane  though  superhuman,  friendly  though  in 
violate,  who  does  not  preach,  who  does  not  threaten,  who 
does  not  lay  new,  absurd,  or  morose  commands  on  our 
befuddled  souls,  but  who  unravels,  who  relieves,  who  shows 
us  the  innocence  of  the  things  we  hated  and  the  clearness 
of  the  things  we  frowned  on  or  denied.  He  interprets  us 
to  the  gods,  and  they  accept  us  ;  he  interprets  us  to  one 
another,  and  we  perceive  that  the  foreigner,  too,  spoke  a 


plain  language  :  happy  he  if  he  was  wise  in  his  own  tongue. 
It  is  for  the  divine  herald  alone  to  catch  the  meaning  of 
all,  without  subduing  his  merry  voice  to  any  dialect  of 
mortals.  He  mocks  our  stammerings  and  forgives  them  ; 
and  when  we  say  anything  to  the  purpose,  and  reach  any 
goal  which,  however  wantonly,  we  had  proposed  to  our 
selves,  he  applauds  and  immensely  enjoys  our  little  achieve 
ment  ;  for  it  is  inspired  by  him  and  like  his  own.  May 
he  be  my  guide  :  and  not  in  this  world  only,  in  which  the 
way  before  me  seems  to  descend  gently,  quite  straight  and 
clear,  towards  an  unruffled  sea  ;  but  at  the  frontiers  of 
eternity  let  him  receive  my  spirit,  reconciling  it,  by  his 
gracious  greeting,  to  what  had  been  its  destiny.  For  he 
is  the  friend  of  the  shades  also,  and  makes  the  greatest 
interpretation  of  all,  that  of  life  into  truth,  translating  the 
swift  words  of  time  into  the  painted  language  of  eternity. 
That  is  for  the  dead  ;  but  for  living  men,  whose  feet  must 
move  forward  whilst  their  eyes  see  only  backward,  he 
interprets  the  past  to  the  future,  for  its  guidance  and 
ornament.  Often,  too,  he  bears  news  to  his  father  and 
brothers  in  Olympus,  concerning  any  joyful  or  beautiful 
thing  that  is  done  on  earth,  lest  they  should  despise  or 
forget  it.  In  that  fair  inventory  and  chronicle  of  happiness 
let  my  love  of  him  be  remembered. 


Printed  in  Great  Britain  by  R.  &  R.  CLARK,  LIMITED,  Edinburgh.